MADISON - J.P. Tokoto, a 6-5 sophomore wing-forward from Menomonee Falls, has already established himself as one of the most highly-touted prep phenoms to ever take the court in Wisconsin. Tokoto is receiving recruiting interest from all over the country and has a list of suitors that includes perennial powers Duke and North Carolina.
Tokoto's state school is one of the schools hoping to obtain the services of this ultra-athletic forward; the Badgers offered Tokoto a scholarship earlier this year during his freshman year of high school. Despite receiving attention from prestigious coaches throughout the nation and becoming a household name within Wisconsin by the age of 15, Tokoto has remained focused and grounded, relying on the strong support of his family as he continues to improve and strives to become a special player.
One of the pillars of support in Tokoto's life is his father, Trevor Trimble. Mr. Trimble and Tokoto's mother have made sure to keep Tokoto grounded and focused on what he will need to make his transition to the next level successful.
"J.P. continues to focus on his education, but he works out at least four times a week for two hours a day doing strength and conditioning and working on his mechanics as well as various defensive and offensive drills," Trimble told Badger Nation. "But, J.P. knows his focus is first and foremost his academics and as his mom and dad we keep him in line and make sure he doesn't get distracted."
Similarly, while Tokoto certainly is anything but ordinary on the basketball court, he still faces the same challenges that any other young high school student might encounter.
"This fall, J.P. will focus on time management, with school all day and then homework; he will have to find the mental energy and physical energy to go out and still work out," said Trimble.
It is this focus and commitment, in combination with his natural basketball ability, that led the Badgers to begin recruiting Tokoto while he was only a freshman.
"Wisconsin started recruiting J.P. his freshman year, they came to about four or five of his high school games," Trimble said. "After the season, our Head Coach Ben Siebert had open gyms for the players and Coach Ryan and Coach Gard came down and told Coach Siebert they wanted to offer a scholarship to J.P., right after the high school season had ended."
The Badger coaching staff appears to be sharing the recruiting of Tokoto in the midst of Head Coach Bo Ryan being absent for part of the summer while coaching the USA 21-and-Under National Team. Despite being tied up with his national team duties, Ryan found time to visit Tokoto and it seems Tokoto appreciated the personal effort.
"Coach Ryan obviously has a busy schedule with Team USA but he and Coach Gard and Coach Howard Moore have all been involved," Trimble said. "J.P. was honored that Coach Ryan took the time to come down, they are all outstanding men and we are very happy with all of them. We cannot have too much contact with them, but J.P. did go to the UW camp and got to see all of them there." Additionally, the Badger coaching staff has continued to make Tokoto a recruiting priority while building relationships with the coaches involved in the development of Tokoto as a high school player. Coach Gard in particular has made his presence felt on the AAU circuit.
"The coaches are more in contact with his high school coach Ben Siebert or J.P.'s AAU coach Ritchie Davis," Trimble said. "That's how we have a lot of our contact with them, we do have some contact with them during season when they scout and down in Las Vegas at a tournament Coach Gard was at every game, I believe we had eight or nine games and despite his busy schedule, we also got to see Coach Ryan at one." The positive feelings appear to be mutual as Tokoto has an appreciation for the flagship university of his state.
"JP was raised here so it's the home state school and Coach Ryan has done an exceptional job," Trimble said. "The Badgers are known for some traditional hard-nosed basketball and it's an hour away from home so he knows mom and dad will get a chance to see him play. Also, he is pleased that his local Big Ten school took the time to come this early and express interest, he is very excited about that."
Tokoto already has planned a visit to a Wisconsin football game this fall, a Wisconsin basketball game this winter and will hopefully get a better understanding of student life on campus.
"JP will be going to Wisconsin in a few weeks to catch a football game and wants to feel the atmosphere of the campus and see what the student life is like," Trimble said. "He's very excited for that. We did go to a couple of games last year but with it being cold, he didn't get to fully experience it, so in a few weeks we are going to take in a football game and see what Badger Nation is all about."
As for Tokoto himself, he seems content to let his recruitment take its course and does not have a current leader.
"I'm pretty open to anybody who wants to scout me and I don't really have any favorite's right now," Tokoto told Badger Nation. "We are just waiting, I will probably wait till my junior year to think about that (a commitment) and leave it alone right now."
When Tokoto does decide to make a decision, the school will be receiving a player with a variety of skills to offer.
"I can bring hard work, determination, toughness, athleticism and leadership and skill wise I can bring my jumping ability, rebounding, shooting a little bit and playing defense," Tokoto said.
This unique skill set is one that is accompanied by an equally great mental makeup and a supportive family -- a truly special combination which makes it quite obvious why Tokoto is being courted by schools throughout the country.
"He's 15 and will be 16 in September but we are pleased because we feel he really gets it," Trimble said. "We have a strong family and support system to make sure he really gets it."
As Tokoto's recruitment continues to intensify, it will be exciting to see what he is capable of and ultimately where he ends up. While a player can occasionally get caught up in the hype regarding his or her recruitment, Tokoto, with his family at his side, appears poised to avoid such pitfalls.
"We always tell him that to be special, you need to have a special story to tell," Trimble said.