After committing to UNC, will Tokoto leave Falls?
One decision is made, but other questions are still unanswered
Menomonee Falls — J.P. Tokoto's father Trevor Trimble got what he asked for from the 300-plus strong throng at Dave & Buster's in Wauwatosa March 3 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 he chose North Carolina, he said, "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 was among those cheering and clapping at the expected announcement.
Prep school not ruled out
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 Division I ball Tokoto might leave Falls next year and finish up high school at a prep academy, 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. That particular hope came up just a little bit short this last weekend with Falls' wrenching season-ending, 57-55, loss to Waukesha South on Saturday in a WIAA regional final.
"I'm going to focus on the team, because we're trying to accomplish something very big right now," he said.
Tokoto's personal thoughts may have reassured Siebert for the moment, but Trimble did nothing to calm Falls' fans unease about his son'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 opportunitythat 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."
Tokoto said he carries a 3.6 GPA at Falls.
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 Division I 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 down this path.
Earlier seen pacing in the hallways of Dave & 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.
Thanks all around
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.
He also had the presence of mind to thank Falls Athletic Director Dave Petroff, former Falls Principal William Hintz, current Principal Gary Kiltz and his guidance counselor for making this process easier.
"Dr. Kiltz really helped me deal with a lot of the pressure," Tokoto said.
Tokoto also thanked and praised his parents, and was grateful for the presence of his three young siblings, who could be seen clambering around the stage.
They were no doubt there to alleviate some of that aforementioned pressure.
"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," Tokoto said.
Time was right
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, the family 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.
A FATHER'S REQUEST: Trevor Trimble not only repeatedly made requests to those in attendance at Dave & Buster's to stay positive after Tokoto made his announcement, a request that was emphatically honored by the noisy and upbeat crowd, but also made calls to those in the blogosphere and in the comment rooms of stories concerning his son, to temper their reactions for his family's sake.
"My wife (J.P.'s mother, Laurence) reads those things (the negative ones about Tokoto) and those blogs hurt her feelings. … This is an older boy we're talking about, one who will soon be a young man. He does have feelings, so please do not hit on him so hard for simply making a personal choice in his life."
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