J.P. Tokoto's father Trevor Trimble got what he asked for from the 300-plus strong throng at Dave and Buster's in Wauwatosa Thursday night when his son announced to no one's surprise that he was going to sign with the University of North Carolina.
Everyone remained positive, very positive as the cheer was long and loud when Tokoto stated what was apparently obvious to everyone who had followed his storied prep basketball career.
It got louder still when a few minutes later, the Menomonee Falls star made the call to Tar Heels coach Roy Williams who had been monitoring the event over the Internet.
"Hey coach, it's J.P., how ya'll doing?," he said over his father's cell phone. "....I'm coming to the University of North Carolina to play for you."
At that point, the sound got deafeningly loud as Williams happily told Tokoto that he would call him back on Friday.
Later, when Tokoto was asked "Why North Carolina?" he said in a nutshell, "because it felt like I belonged there." Williams has also been a high-profile presence in the Falls' area for some time now, actively courting the 6-6 Tokoto's talents.
Falls coach Ben Siebert, whose team plays a difficult WIAA regional game on Saturday at Waukesha South, was among those cheering and clapping at the expected announcement.
He was obviously not cheering at all, when someone called out to Tokoto during the question and answer period a short time later with this 800-pound gorilla of a query:
"Will you be playing at Menomonee Falls High School next year (for his senior season)?"
That question got asked because rumors have been floating over the Web in recent weeks that in order to better prepare himself for the rigors of high level NCAA D1 ball Tokoto might leave Falls next year and finish up high school at a prep school, possibly out east.
Tokoto himself spoke highly of the 11-11 Indians' strength of schedule and that they would be an underrated force in the WIAA playoffs.
"I'm going to focus on the team right now, because we're trying to accomplish something very big right now," he said.
That may have reassured Siebert for the moment, but Trimble did nothing to calm Falls' fans unease about Tokoto's future in the village, noting that the family will "evaluate what's best for J.P.'s future."
"It's nothing we can really speak on at the moment," he said. "...It (the prep school option) is a different opportunity. We'll keep evaluating what is the best fit, but we won't sacrifice academics."
"But we also won't rule out an opportunity (prep school) that we haven't fully educated ourselves on yet either. When we do that, the three of us (himself, Tokoto and Tokoto's mother Laurence Trimble) will decide what's best for J.P."
In a sign of great diplomacy, Siebert, who was there with a large number of his staff, said he had "no comment on that" when referring to the possibility of losing his superstar before he's done with high school.
"I'm just excited for J.P. and proud of what he's accomplished for himself," said Siebert.
Tokoto is the third Menomonee Falls boys basketball player to sign a high-level D1 letter of intent in its history. Falls Athletic Hall of Famers guard Bob Wolf (Marquette in the early 1960s) and forward Brad Christianson (Boston College after a two-time NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year career in the early 1990s) preceded him.
Earlier seen pacing in the hallways of Dave and Buster's trying to collect his thoughts, the 17-year old junior, who does not own a cell phone or have his driver's license yet, was collected and well self-possessed in front of the crowd that included all the major area television stations and was scheduled to coincide with all the local 10 p.m. sports' reports.
He praised the other schools that were high on his list, including Wisconsin, which had offered him a scholarship his freshman year, and gave a big shout-out to his coaches and to his teammates who were crowded next to the podium off to his left.
Tokoto also thanked and praised his parents, and was grateful for the presence of his three very small siblings, who could be seen clambering around the stage.
"Having them around to play with after bad days, bad games is great," he said. 'There's nothing like having little kids around at home to get my mind off things."
He also advised future athletes in his position to stay strong both mentally and physically and especially to develop a strong work ethic.
"You won't get any better if you don't work at it," he said.
Trimble said that the scheduling of the selection event, just two days before Falls' first tournament game, did have some urgency to it. Both he and Tokoto wanted it out of the way before WIAA play starts so the team could focus on South.
But then Trimble noted that as special and unique a talent as his son is, they also had to act quickly to make this great chance a reality or someone else might take Tokoto's place.
"It was important for us at this time," he said. "J.P. has been given a unique opportunity with some elite level schools but we felt now was the best time to make this decision."
"...To play at an elite university, you've got to claim your spot. It is a business to them and if you don't claim your spot, time will pass you by."
The clock is now ticking for Tokoto.
Falls will play at South at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a WIAA regional final.
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