Tokoto: 'I Am A Tar Heel For Life'

WAUWATOSA, Wisc. --- Throughout his recruiting process, J.P. Tokoto got so many letters and took so many visits that the schools started to blend together. But when he went to Chapel Hill for the first time on Memorial Day weekend of 2009, the 6-foot-6 small forward saw the whole scope of his recruitment change.

"When I got down there, it was just a shock," Tokoto said. "When I got down I just had a feeling that it was going to be my home."

On Thursday evening, surrounded by his teammates, mother, father, siblings and a packed media room at Dave and Buster's restaurant, Tokoto officially made North Carolina his home, ending his recruitment by choosing to play for head coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels starting in the fall of 2012.

"North Carolina has so much history and tradition with what they've done with their players," Tokoto said. "I just love Carolina. The coaching staff, they treat all their players with respect and it was the best environment."

Tokoto narrowed his list to Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Maryland, North Carolina, UCLA and Wisconsin on February 14. Over the next two weeks, he took unofficial visits to Chapel Hill Feb.21 and Maryland on Feb. 23 before sitting down to make his decision.

"It was really tough and a hard decision between Wisconsin and North Carolina," Tokoto said. "We sat down for a couple of hours Monday."

Over the course of his recruitment, no two schools went after him harder than the Badgers and Tar Heels and Tokoto reiterated that his top two schools were undoubtedly Wisconsin and North Carolina.

UW Coach Bo Ryan first offered Tokoto during an open gym as a high school freshman in 2008 and the Badgers, according to Tokoto's father Trevor Trimble, initially did the most leg work recruiting him, from traveling to AAU tournaments to Falls High for home games. In the last year, Tokoto had made unofficial visits to two football games, including UW's victory over No. 1 Ohio State, and three basketball games, including victories last season over No. 5 Duke and this season over No. 1 Ohio State.

Like Ryan, however, UNC Coach Roy Williams made Tokoto a high priority for his program and made many visits to Wisconsin to watch Tokoto play. Despite assumptions otherwise, Tokoto said style of play - the Tar Heels high-tempo offense compared to the Badgers more patience style – wasn't a major factor in his decision.

Instead, it was his fifth and most recent visit to North Carolina. Tokoto made trips to Chapel Hill in May '09, August '09, February '10 and May '10, but it was the trip last month that sealed the deal.

His first time visiting the campus while school was in session was the final piece, allowing him to make the decisionto follow in the footsteps of Kohler's Joe Wolf, who took his talents from Wisconsin to Chapel Hill 29 years ago.

"It was important for us to make this decision now because J.P. had a very unique decision in front of him with some elite schools," said Trevor Trimble, Tokoto's father. "When you have a chance to compete at an elite university, you have to claim your roster spot because it is a business. We understand and we respect that and if you don't claim your spot, time will pass you by."

With Tokoto not having a cell phone -- let alone a driver's license -- Trimble graciously obliged to an observer's request to have Tokoto call Williams following his announcement, as he dialed the UNC coach's number and handed Tokoto the phone.

In what was a brief three-minute conversation, Tokoto revealed that Williams' wife had showed him the Internet report of his commitment and that he was anxiously awaiting a phone call from him.

Tokoto told Williams, "I am coming to University of North Carolina to play for you," followed by a loud ovation from the packed room, and he signed off by telling Williams that he loved him, leaving no doubt as to how much Williams had meant to Tokoto during the process.

Tokoto – who is averaging 20.5 points as a junior at Menomonee Falls - is the second verbal commitment to North Carolina's 2012 class, joining four-star point guard and good friend Marcus Paige (Marion, IA).

"I love Marcus' game," said Tokoto. "We've been playing against each other since about seventh grade and his team usually got the better of us. He's just a great guy. I love Marcus … I am excited to get to Carolina and to be there with one of my friends now is really great."

Tokoto admitted it was hard to leave the state, but was adamant when asked what his message was to Tar Heel fans.

"I am a Tar Heel for life," Tokoto said. "That's what it is."

J.P. Tokoto Profile

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