It's going to be electric. It's going to be a really, really, really big-time game for this university. —Jake Toolson
OREM — It's been nearly two years since Jake Toolson last suited up for BYU.
On Wednesday night, the Cougars will have a front-row seat to see his progression at Utah Valley's UCCU Center as the Wolverines host Utah County rival BYU (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv).
Toolson has started every game for UVU this season, including a pair of contests against national powers Duke and Kentucky, and he is third on the Wolverines in scoring at 12.2 points per game.
He's second on the team in assists (2.8 per game) and rebounds (6.0), all while averaging 30 minutes per game. Toolson is also tied for the fewest turnovers among UVU's starters, averaging 1.7 per game.
Numbers, though, don't tell the whole story about how Toolson is impacting the Wolverines program.
"Jake’s numbers have been really good, but his leadership has been outstanding," UVU coach Mark Pope said. "That’s the thing that’s been most exciting to me is Jake can actually help our team win a game without scoring a bucket. He’s just really taken a leadership role on our team. He’s an energy guy."
Nick Wagner, Deseret News
BYU (4-2) at Utah Valley University (4-2)
Wednesday, 7 p.m. MST, UCCU Center
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Toolson transferred from BYU following the 2015-16 season, heading less than five miles west to UVU. He played in 10 games that year for BYU, starting five, and last played for the Cougars in a game on Dec. 18, 2015, before sitting the final 27 games with what BYU called a medical leave of absence.
Last year, he watched — sitting out the season, per NCAA rules — as UVU beat BYU for the first time in school history. The Wolverines handed the Cougars a 114-101 loss and set an opponent record for points at the Marriott Center by hitting 18 3-pointers.
"Sitting out and watching it was just incredible. I was just so proud of the guys out there competing," Toolson said. "Obviously they knew my circumstance and all the things that I had gone through. I feel like they went out there and played for me, and, this year, it's my turn to go out there and do it for everyone else."
Now, the sophomore guard is seen as a leader on a team that features five seniors.
"He knows how to motivate us and keep us focused," senior forward Isaac Neilson, another BYU transfer, said of Toolson. "He plays really hard, and he really loves his team and he plays for us."
Pope pointed to Toolson's mental edge as a key to helping the Wolverines emerge victorious in their latest game, an 83-75 overtime win at North Dakota, which reached the NCAA tournament last year as the Big Sky tournament champions.
"At North Dakota, there were three or four times where the energy could have left the building for us because we weren’t playing well," Pope said. "And all those times where the energy seems to go away, more often than not, Jake’s the guy that comes and saves us.
"He’s been sensational that way. He’s just been a huge part of what we’re trying to get done right now."
Now, Toolson and the Wolverines will try to earn a second straight win over the Cougars in the first game that UVU has hosted BYU. UVU announced Tuesday night that the game is a sellout, the first in the Division I era for the school.
"It's going to be electric," Toolson said. "It's going to be a really, really, really big-time game for this university."