Ending on a High Note

After stumbling at points during the summer circuit, Menomonee Falls forward J.P. Tokoto wanted to make sure his summer AAU ball ended with a bang. Putting in long hours with his father at the gym, Tokoto made an impression at the Wisconsin Exposure Classic and for Head Coach Bo Ryan, showing that his above-average game is still coming into focus.

WISCONSIN DELLS - As if he wasn't already head and shoulders above the competition, J.P. Tokoto is hungry for more. It's standard procedure when somebody knocks him down a peg.

Flying high heading to NBA camp in Virginia, Tokoto was knocked down when he went scoreless in three games, causing scouts to question his skills. So Tokoto did what he always does when he falters – goes back in the gym with his father and doesn't leave until he gets it right.

"I was primarily a No.4 last year and moving out to the perimeter this summer, I was losing my dribble and my shot wasn't always there," Tokoto told Badger Nation Friday. "After I struggled, I got back in the gym and got way better."

His performances the past two weekends spoke for itself. In Las Vegas, Tokoto used his mid-range jumper to drop 25 points in quarterfinal play. In the Dells, Tokoto used his dribble to slash to the basket and finish around the rim with a thunderous aggression. With his help, his AAU team - The Wisconsin Playground Warriors - went 57-9 during the summer circuit.

"My dad and I have been working on my shooting and ball handling a lot, and it's shown in the last two tournaments in Vegas and here," Tokoto said, who combined protein shakes with gym work nearly every day. "I've shown that I can play the point guard role if needed. Scouts and some coaches have been saying that they can see a change in my game, and playing the position more and more is making me more comfortable. My jumpers are looking good and my game is feeling good heading into next season."

At 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, the athletic slasher from Menomonee Falls – rated now as a four-star player and seventh-best shooting forward in the country by Scout.com - has offers from all over the country, but nobody has been recruiting him harder than the two coaches who showed up at the Just A Game Fieldhouse.

Averaging 18.6 points per game during his sophomore year for the Indians, Tokoto was well aware of the attention being given to him by Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan and Associate Head Coach Greg Gard, who sat courtside the last two weekends to watch him compete.

"Our relationship is really good," Tokoto said of Ryan and Gard. "It's a home school, so you know they will always be around wherever I go. I really like them spending their time to come out and see me. I really enjoy seeing them, they are really cool to talk to and they are really supportive of me and my family."

While other schools have waiting to start recruiting or offer Tokoto until this past June per the recommendations laid out by the NABC, Wisconsin chose to get an early start on the phenom, giving Tokoto his first offer during his freshman year of high school.

"My relationship hasn't changed because they've always liked me and I like them," Tokoto said. "They've always been around to help and support me."

Ryan wasn't the only head coach to make the trip to the Dells, as North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams, who offered Tokoto officially on June 15, flew in to Madison and drove up Friday to watch Tokoto compete. After each game, Tokoto acknowledged both of them with a handshake.

"To be honest, it's pretty amazing that he comes up to the Dells just to see me play," Tokoto said. "Besides Coach Bo and Coach Gard, he's one of the other coaches that I see the most. To come from North Carolina to Wisconsin or to Las Vegas or wherever we are playing means a lot."

Tokoto plans to wait until next summer to narrow down his list and bring his recruitment into focus. Even with 15 offers – Maryland, Miami and Tennessee being the new ones - and dozens of college coaches phoning it, Tokoto claims he has no favorites, and hasn't begun the process of sitting down with his parents to discuss his future. Regardless, the laissez faire approach doesn't signal that the process is wearing on him.

"It's been real enjoyable," Tokoto said of his recruitment. "When you stop enjoying it, you've got to stop doing it. I love playing basketball, which is why I play it so much. It can never be overwhelming for me."

With Tokoto nearly getting a taste of the WIAA state championship last year, falling by two in the sectional finals to eventual champion Hartland Arrowhead, the focus becomes on using his big-game experience to get Falls to the Kohl Center, a place he has become quite familiar with during the process.

"We've got a lot of good players coming up and I think we can get back to right to where we were last year – undefeated in conference and making a push," Tokoto said. "Making it to state has been our goal since my freshman year. We just got to make it happen."

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