Defining Tokoto

A performance eight months ago didn't define J.P. Tokoto, or overshadow the scholarship offers and the 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, but it served as an important evaluating tool.

Last June Tokoto was the No. 4-ranked prospect in the class of 2012 by Scout.com when he arrived at the NBA Top 100 Camp. But, at an event that should've further established his reputation as one of the nation's best, Tokoto struggled. The 6-foot-6 small forward from Menomonee Falls was held scoreless for four of his six games and with that came plenty of doubters.

"He obviously didn't play the way he wanted to" Wisconsin Playground Warriors coach Ritchie Davis said. "But I don't think that takes away from (his talent)."

While Davis -- and plenty college coaches -- didn't hit the panic button over last summer, a lot of scouts and fans did. Tokoto went from the next big wing to a question mark.

Davis says the fixation with Tokoto's scoring troubles last summer is misguided. With his elite athleticism and ability to affect the game in a number of ways, scoring has never really been what Tokoto was about.

"He certainly can score but I just wouldn't start out describing him as a prominent scorer," Davis said. "That wouldn't be my first thought anyway."

So was Tokoto misevaluated as a top talent? No. With the top programs in the country still beating down his door, he can definitely play. Was his role misperceived? That's probably more accurate.

Rather than than the typical high-flying, higher-scoring swingman most are used to, Tokoto is more of a jack of all trades. He's an excellent defender and rebounder who can set up his teammates. He's dynamite in transition. And he's developing as a scorer.

"He's a kid that makes a lot of plays and is tough to take off the floor," Davis said. "He brings a lot of intangibles to the table and I think that's something that a lot of these schools (like)."

So often players are only considered dominant if they are dominant scorers. That's not really Tokoto, Menomonee Falls coach Ben Siebert said. Instead, Siebert compares Tokoto to UNLV star and 15-year NBA veteran Stacey Augmon, because he can change a game with his length and athleticism.

"He's snatching rebounds so far above everybody else that a lot of times teams don't even send guys to the offensive glass against us because they know J.P. is going to clean up everything," Siebert said. "Then they also know that the second he hits the floor, he's putting it on the ground and sprinting to the other rim."

Defensively Tokoto has become a lock-down defender on the perimeter and even a shot blocker, according to his coaches.

"He cleans up a lot of stuff around the rim," Siebert said. "His teammates might not be able to guard a guy but J.P. erases a lot of things for us when he gets to the rim."

Just because he doesn't define himself as a scorer doesn't mean the infamous zeroes last June mean nothing. Tokoto's coaches admit he didn't play well early in the summer and say he's learning to become more aggressive offensively.

Siebert said Tokoto is traditionally at his best on the break, finding seams and attacking the basket. But since last summer he's worked on his ball-handling and adding a pull-up jumpshot. Tokoto won't ever be a gunner, Siebert says, but so far this year he has shown consistency with his jumper against a tough Menomonee schedule.

"It's still a work in progress but he's improved a lot from last year. He put a ton of time in the gym working on his shot," Siebert said. "When that part of his game is working, he's really unstoppable. Teams don't know how to deal with him."

Davis said the mid-range jumper adds a new dimension to Tokoto's game.

"It's huge," Davis said. "I think with any kid that's that athletic, if you can't make perimeter jumpshots, the lanes that were once there as a younger player are no longer going to be there because people aren't going to guard you as tight. I think that's a big thing for him."

But perhaps the biggest step Tokoto has made is in his approach, according to Siebert. Tokoto is starting to shed the unselfish label and be a more aggressive scorer.

What does that mean? His days of zeroes are most likely over.

"We've been working on that and he's been doing it more and more," Siebert said. "When he does that, he's got all the tools. He's just got to remember that it shouldn't matter who you're playing -- you always bring it -- and he should be successful."

J.P. Tokoto Profile


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