Ram Hoops Scoop: Dominating the Border War and finishing the season strong

Throughout the 2022-23 basketball season, Colorado State senior guard John Tonje will share his viewpoints on the team’s performance in recent games, preview upcoming games, and more, here in Ram Hoops Scoop. Learn more here on how to contribute to RamNation’s NIL fund for John, fellow basketball NIL partner Tavi Jackson, and other student athlete partners.

Congrats on a big rivalry win against Wyoming! One of the team’s most complete games of the season. In a season full of adversity, what did this rivalry win mean to you guys?

It may have been the biggest game for us this year — second to last home game, against Wyoming, and it being the orange out, which adds even more excitement. So, to have this game be all those things and get the win was huge for this team.

With everything that has gone against this team (six guys have missed significant court time due to injuries or illness), it would have been easy for this team to fold down the stretch. What has kept you motivated and playing hard?

I think that we all love the sport and understand even through the adversity, we have an opportunity that we worked hard for. We continue to fight for each other through it all, and we have no quit in us.

Personally, it was one of your best games of the season, scoring 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting (and 3-for-6 from behind the arc) and 8-of-8 from the free throw line, as well as 6 rebounds. It seemed you were more aggressive than usual. Was that a concerted mindset going into the game and what do you attribute the success to?

I think it was the moment that brought it out of me. The first game against Wyoming was not my best basketball, so I really wanted to change that this time around. I also think my teammates give me all the confidence I need at this point in the season to be aggressive and play my game, so I really thank them.

We’ve talked with you about shooting slumps over the course of the season. Now, you have found your groove and are clearly playing some of the best basketball of your career, averaging 18 points per game and leading the team to a win against Wyoming and two road wins at Fresno State and Air Force recently. What has been the difference for you particularly over the last month?

For me, I learned a lot this year and got my butt kicked by it in many different ways. If there’s one thing I’ve learned to do in college, it’s to learn from mistakes. Recently, I’ve just been trying to have fun out there and play with confidence from the things I’ve learned.

Speaking of Fresno State, you completed the Rams’ impressive late comeback by splitting through a trap and drawing a foul with :04 left. First, was it a legitimate foul? (Fresno State coach Justin Hutson implied after the game that it wasn’t a good call.) And second, talk about the nerves you feel (or don’t feel?) and how you overcome that when you step up to the line needing to make two free throws to win the game like you did?

I think within the ruling of college basketball, it was definitely a foul. In that moment I knew my team needed me to make two free throws, and I didn’t think about anything but doing just that. I just trusted the work I’ve put in on free throws and trusted the result. Luckily, they went in.

The Border War Friday night was the first sellout of the season at Moby. Can you tangibly feel the energy of the crowd and how do you feed off that?

Absolutely, the energy was much appreciated, and we needed it to get that win at home. I know how
much this team puts into every game and every practice, so I feel that we needed it and
deserved it.

When Moby is rocking, how does it compare to other arena environments around the Mountain West Conference?

I think Moby is one of the top places to play when the arena is sold out because everyone is so
engaged and pulling for the team. Also, it’s hard to play in arenas that trash talk the opponents,
and our student section has that part down.

The Orange Out is always a great look at Moby Arena, from the uniforms to the fans in the stands. How do you rate the Rams’ uniform options 1-5? (Home white, white throwbacks, road green, orange, and state pride?)

  1. Orange
  2. Road green
  3. State pride
  4. Throwbacks
  5. Home white

We ran into you (and Trace Young) at a local pizza establishment after the game. What is your go-to pizza order?

I don’t eat pork, which is the top pizza option, so I go with cheese pizza and add cream cheese. (Trace isn’t picky and he likes pretty much any pizza.)

The Rams travel to San Jose State for the final road game of the regular season Tuesday. What do the Rams have to do better in this matchup to avenge the loss to the Spartans at Moby early in league play on December 31?

We have to keep their guards out of the paint and box out to limit offensive rebounds, which are
the two keys of the game. It’s easier said than done, but that’s what’s going to give us the best

If the Rams continue to get great production from you and fellow senior Isaiah Stevens, complementary performances from other starters, and great bench play, how far can you guys go in the Mountain West Conference tournament?

At our best there’s no telling how far we can go, but we hope to compete. I’m not big on calling games or being overly confident on winning because the best team that day wins. We just have to be our best every day. 

Good luck to the Rams!


About our student athlete

John is a senior leader out of Omaha, Neb. and one of the top scorers on the team. He is considered one of the founding building blocks that has turned around the men’s basketball program. He is a major in Business; Finance and Real Estate; Business Administration. He also has an interest in fashion design and is starting his own clothing line. You can read all his “Ram Hoops Scoop” features here

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