TOC Spotlight: J.P. Tokoto

RALEIGH, N.C. – J.P. Tokoto is settling into life as a North Carolina commitment.

Since giving his pledge to Roy Williams and the Tar Heels on March 3, many of the pressures that come with a high-major recruitment have vanished.

Gone are the never-ending phone calls, recruiting visits and daily requests for interviews. With all of those taxing – but necessary – obligations out of the way, Tokoto can focus on what he enjoys most.

Playing basketball.

"I love playing basketball, it's my passion," he said with a smile. "If you're not having fun in everything you do, you shouldn't do it all."

"He's been in a whole different mindset since he committed to North Carolina," Wisconsin Playground Warriors head coach Ritchie Davis said. "It's been awesome for him. He's comfortable and they (the UNC coaching staff) are so supportive of him, which gives him a level of confidence and that's translated to his game."

Tokoto has earned positive reviews so far in the spring AAU circuit as his skill set continues to evolve. In the Playground Warriors' opening game at the 2011 Tournament of Champions, Tokoto scored 17 points on 7-of-13 (0-1 3pt, 3-4 FTs) shooting from the field and added four rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals.

"He's a stat stuffer," Davis said. "He couldn't have played much better in our last couple of events. At the Adidas classic, I thought on championship Sunday he was as good as there was. It's the all-around thing that he'll provide – he'll get you 10 rebounds, three deflections, five assists and score 15 points. Which, to some extent, is better than the kid who can score 20 or 25 points."

One aspect of Tokoto's game that's come under criticism from scouts, writers and even fans, is his shooting ability. When asked about his past shooting struggles, he didn't shy away from the topic.

"My elbow still kind of turns out a little bit (when I shoot), so I have to fix that," he said. "It's come along so I'm pretty proud of the work I've put in and the results I've gotten. I want to keep working hard and extend my range to the 3-point line by the time I get down here."

While he's known for his athleticism and big-time finishing capability, there's another part of his game that he's equally proud of.

"I like to pass the ball a lot," explained Tokoto. "Instead of scoring, I'd rather get my teammates the ball and try [to] score. If I have the better situation on the break of course I'm going to take it. (A good pass) gets me more excited than a dunk really. Dunks used to get me excited, but I've been doing them for so long that it doesn't really excite me anymore."

Tokoto said he talks with the North Carolina staff as much as possible and they give him advice on how to improve and what his role will be when enrolls in almost a year.

"I've talked to Coach a few times about that," he said. "He said he doesn't see me as a position, he seems me as a basketball player. Mainly '1' through '4', going inside and punishing some people like we do out here, bringing the ball up and playing out the wing. Whatever coach needs me to do."

Though he was busy finishing his junior season at Menomonee Falls High School, Tokoto said he watched his future teammates' run to the Elite 8 during the NCAA Tournament. He also has regular conversations with sophomores Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes.

"I was so excited – after the ACC Tournament I knew they were going to go far" he said. "I watched every game and I was cheering them on. My mom and I sat down and watched the games – it was really no surprise to me. I'm looking forward to seeing them next year because I think they're going to win the championship."


J.P. Tokoto Profile


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