Tokoto Officially a Tar Heel

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wisc. --- In great contrast to the 21,750 seat Dean E. Smith Center where J.P. Tokoto will play his home games next year, his Signing Day ceremony took place in the gymnasium of the grade school his siblings attend.

The event was amassed as part of a team community outreach in his hometown of Menomonee Falls and included a food drive along with Tokoto and his teammates reading to grade schoolers.

"I wanted to involve everyone that supported me not just me and my family," Tokoto said. "I wanted my friends and teammates along with everybody that supported me to be a part of this."

Although the signing lacked the party atmosphere associated with Tokoto's commitment announcement gathering last March, the significance of actually putting the pen to paper was not lost on the crowd of teammates, family, coaches and friends. When the inked dried, Tokoto cemented his inclusion in UNC's four-man class, not to mention joining a college program that enters this season ranked No. 1 in the nation.

"When I first verbally committed I felt great and relived but now I feel even better," Tokoto said. "The process was a lot of fun but sometimes it was hectic so now I can kind of relax."

The chance to be a part of a storied history that includes five NCAA tournament championships along with the opportunity to wear the same uniform as so many All-Americans and All-Stars is something that Tokoto isn't taking lightly. Beyond just the legacy of the Tar Heels alone, Tokoto looks forward to experiencing the rivalry games with Duke and North Carolina State along with the challenge of playing in a power conference like the ACC.

"There are so many things I'm looking forward to," Tokoto said, "I went to some games last year and I was just sitting there during timeouts taking a look around and picturing myself on the floor there."

"I definitely look forward to the big crowds and I feel like I'm ready for it."

The relationship that Tokoto has developed with head coach Roy Williams during the recruiting process added to the attractiveness of playing for the Tar Heels. Having a coach like Williams has given his family the assurance that he will be in good hands when he leaves for school this fall.

"Over the years talking to him on the phone and visiting with him in person has given my a great feeling about Coach," Tokoto said. "He is probably the main reason I'm going to North Carolina."

Tokoto's current head coach, Dan Leffel, added: "His family made sure that whatever program he was going to be a part of would have a great family atmosphere," Leffel said. "That's a special place when you go down there.

"You notice the southern hospitality and that's what the family fell in love with."

After being named to the AP All-State First Team, Tokoto enters his final prep season coming off a junior year which saw his scoring average increase as his team's winning percentage decreased with a young set of teammates. Totoko averaged 20.4 points per game as a junior but the Menomonee Falls Indians slipped from Sectional Finalists his sophomore year to just a conference also ran last year. His focus now is on finishing high school strong both on and off the court.

"Over the summer I worked on my overall game but what I've done a lot is worked on my shooting and ball handling," Tokoto said. "Number one has been defense and I've been working on it to get better as an individual and better as a team."


Roy Williams spoke to the local media after receiving Tokoto's Letter of Intent.

"In recruiting J.P., what you saw was a wonderful young man with his head on straight. A family that didn't coddle the kid and helped him grow. I love the discipline that Mom and Dad gave J.P. He wasn't a prima donna.

"He has the athleticism of some of those guys that I've been fortunate enough to coach and recruit. We had a great player here at North Carolina that I recruited to Kansas but didn't get in Vince Carter. Vince athletically was off the charts, and that's the way I would term J.P.

"But his game is different, and that's the unique thing about being a coach - you're trying to put a puzzle together, and you've got to find the pieces. His versatility of being able to do so many different things is going to help him."

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