After four years in a Colorado State uniform, John Tonje has decided to enter the transfer portal and use his final season of eligibility elsewhere.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard began his career as a rotational player for the Rams back in the 2019-20 season, and eventually established himself as a key sixth man during CSU’s three-year run of 20+ win seasons.
After starting 13 total games over his first three seasons in Fort Collins, Tonje started 33 games for CSU as a senior and really played some of the best ball of his career.
Despite putting up significantly more attempts than any of his first three years on the team, Tonje shot a career-best 47% from the field. He was more efficient from 3-point range — but again, on a much higher volume of shots than before. His production on the glass, as well as assists, steals and blocks recorded were all career-highs as well.
Beyond the increase in production, what was really cool to see was the way that Tonje came into his own as a leader for the Rams this season. We always knew that he was capable of making a highlight play or having a big night. Tonje’s heroics against San Diego State in 2021 is a great example. So is the time that he scored 31 points against Oral Roberts in a spot start to begin the 2021-22 campaign. With David Roddy no longer in the picture, though, and CSU also dealing with an excessive amount of injuries, Tonje had to do so much more than what had been asked of him in the past.
With everything that went wrong for the Rams, most locker rooms would have imploded, especially as the gut-wrenching losses piled up. Clearly this season did not live up to expectations, but the fact that this group did rally down the stretch and play some competitive basketball is a credit to the veterans like Tonje.
“I couldn’t have asked for better leaders,” Niko Medved said at the Mountain West Tournament. “I say it all of the time, you learn the most through adversity. And I learned who these guys were this year. I learned who they were as young men. How they’ve grown and how they stayed with it — that’s going to carry on with them for the rest of their lives.”
For a guy like Tonje, who was not recruited heavily out of high school and certainly did not receive the same hype that Roddy, Isaiah Stevens or even Dischon Thomas did coming in, seeing the growth that he was able to make over the years was really special. As Tonje said on Senior Night, he just wanted to be the last player on a Division 1 bench. Instead, though, he ended up being a 1,000-point scorer and a player that will be beloved by the Ram faithful forever.
Just like Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore this year, it will be a little weird to see Tonje in anything other than Green & Gold in the future. That said, it’s tough to feel anything other than proud of Tonje after everything he did for the Rams these past four years.
From being a rotation guy off the bench to one of the team’s key starters as a senior, that’s the type of career arc we all love to see in college athletics. And in an era where many guys decide to pack it up and run at the first sign of trouble, or if they don’t get the exact role that they want, Tonje’s selflessness these past few seasons is something that I will always look back on and admire. Very few players would have gone back to the bench without a fuss after dropping 31 in the first game of the season like Tonje did as a junior. The way that Tonje handled this season despite not getting the attention that Stevens did is a testament to his maturity as well.
We’ll see where Tonje ultimately ends up for his final season of college basketball. The early indications are that he has quite a few high-major suitors. But after four memorable seasons with CSU and a whole lot of great games along the way, Tonje will forever be a Ram.
I wish him nothing but the best on his journey.