Johnson, Tokoto Enjoy the Moment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It didn't take long for Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto to witness the reach of Carolina basketball on Saturday night.

Starting for the East squad at the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic, Johnson and Tokoto – along with absent injured teammate Marcus Paige – received a rousing ovation during introductions.

It was a short moment, but one that resonated with the UNC signees.

"That was crazy," Tokoto said. "I want to thank all the Tar Heel fans that came out and supported me and Brice. I kind of expected it, but not as much as it was. It was pretty cool."

Tokoto and Johnson each played 19 minutes in the East's 99-95 loss. Tokoto finished with eight points (3-5 FG, 0-1 3pt, 2-4 FT), four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Johnson was held scoreless (0-4 FG), but had four rebounds, two assists a block and a steal.

Johnson started at power forward, alongside Kentucky commitment Nerlens Noel, and never quite got in the flow of the game. But he didn't come away discouraged.

"It's just an all-star game," Johnson said. "I wasn't nervous or anything. My goal was to just to have a little fun and enjoy the moment. That's what I did."

Tokoto scored six of his eight points in the first five minutes of the game. His points came on an alley-oop, two transition dunks and two free throws. He missed his only 3-point attempt.

Similar to Johnson, Tokoto said the game itself was a chance to have fun. The practices, however, were a final high school measuring stick.

"Going up against these guys in practice is a real indicator of where you stand," he said. "You take what you can do against these guys – these are the elite of the elite – and you go back in the gym and get to work. Me, I have to work on my ball-handling and my perimeter jumper. Being up here with these guys is just a great opportunity."

At some events, the bright lights, crowds and media attention can have even the most confident players questioning their abilities. Both Tokoto and Johnson said they knew they belonged in a game with some of the class of 2012's best.

"We came in with that kind of attitude," explained Tokoto. "If you don't come into these kind of events thinking that you belong here, you're really not going to play to your full potential. You have to come in knowing that you really belong here and that you're here for a reason."

Now, with their high school careers over, Johnson and Tokoto said they're preparing to help UNC maintain and exceed the lofty expectations put on the program each year.

"We want to win a championship," Johnson said. "We want to dominate."

"We want an ACC championship," Tokoto added. "We want to make a run in the tournament also and make a run past the Elite 8."

Tokoto didn't back down when reminded that UNC lost four of its five starters from 2011-12's ACC regular season championship team.

"We're bringing a good class too," he said emphatically. "We've got Joel James, we got Marcus Paige, we got Brice and myself. We've got big shoes to fill, but we're going to step up to the challenge and really make coach (Roy Williams) happy."

Despite not being able to attend the game because of injury, Paige was watching and rooting on his future teammates from his home in Iowa.

"Even though we were supposed to be on different teams, I would have loved to be down there this week," Paige told Inside Carolina. "I would've loved to get a chance to hang out with Brice and J.P. because we are all already pretty good friends. It was fun to watch them though, and I'm definitely ready to get to work with them and Joel this summer."

Brice Johnson Profile
J.P. Tokoto Profile

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