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The myth, the man, the high-flyer, Tokoto wins national dunk contest

Event was broadcast on CBS

April 2, 2012

The big silver hoop and net that J.P. Tokoto of Menomonee Falls won in the nationally televised American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk contest Friday in New Orleans is going to look good in his dorm room next fall at North Carolina.

But his father, Trevor Trimble, thinks it might look good in the room of J.P.'s younger brother for awhile.

Wherever the symbol of national dunking pre-eminence eventually resides one thing remains certain, the legend, the myth, and the man that is the high-flying Tokoto continues to grow in stature as he prepares to take his leave of the Falls for the wider world in a few months.

"I have to admit I was in my element," said the usually soft-spoken, humble, chores-doing Tokoto. "I was used to all that energy. We were just a bunch of guys out there having fun. It was great at times just kicking back and watching everybody else do their thing."

He even got taken aback a bit when one the announcers called him "The future Vince Carter."

"That's a pretty high honor," Tokoto laughed, noting how Carter used to dominate NBA slam dunk contests earlier this century.

What made the event even more fun, was that his old AAU teammate Wally Ellenson of Rice Lake also got into the contest, and wowed judges in the preliminary rounds with some spectacular displays of artistry before falling in the semifinals. Further, Tokoto's old friend and competitor from across County Line Road, Zak Showalter of Germantown, made the semifinals of the 3-point competition that was held at the same time.

"I think Wisconsin had the deepest team there," laughed Trimble. "Wally comes and stays with us in the summer (before tournaments). A great kid."

High jump next for J.P.

Now they're both looking forward to track this spring. Ellenson is the defending WIAA Division 2 state track champion in the high jump (CBS even broadcast some great stills of him in action), and Tokoto has announced his intention to try the event for Falls this spring in the outdoor season.

Unfortunately, Falls is Division 1 in track, too, so the two could not go head-to-head even if Tokoto's venture into the event is successful enough to earn a state meet berth.

The whole weekend was a complete lark and very low-key. The kids could be seen with their cameras taking pictures of one another and Tokoto and company gathered together for the 3-point shooting contest that was held beforehand and lustily cheered Showalter on.

The right baseline shot proved to be a bit of Zak's undoing in the semifinals. It was too bad he couldn't have switched in his little brother Jake for that shot, because Jake made a great living out of that particular spot in the Warhawks' state championship run in Madison two weeks ago.

But fun was still being had by all.

Trimble could be seen in the rafters of the Alario Center gym taking artistic photos of the slam dunk event, while his wife and Tokoto's mother, Laurence Trimble, could be seen slapping high fives with Zak's father and Germantown coach Steve Showalter after every stunning leap.

"Just a first-class family," said Trimble of the Showalters. "We all hung out together and had a good time."

Tokoto started the competition with a perfect score, but got one-upped in the semifinals when after he jumped over a 6-6 judge for one spectacular dunk, event favorite Shaquille Johnson went over TWO people at least that tall for a spectacular slam.

But Tokoto got the best of Johnson in the final, when he nailed a beautiful windmill job with only four seconds left on the clock, hitting the ground with a spectacular deep-set pose.

Johnson tried to match Tokoto's perfect score, but tired, failing to land a slam within the allotted time limit.

Trimble said there was a lot of pressure on the young high-fliers

"The way they broadcast it, it looked like they got a nice break after the semifinals but that wasn't the case," he said. "They ran that entire competition in just under an hour, so those guys were getting a bit tired. They never got a break."

Improv skills

Tokoto confirmed in post-event comments that he came in with only two predetermined slams and then it was time for some improvisation.

"I was watching what the other guys were doing and that gave me some ideas," he said. "I wanted to come out big (a deftly done self-bounce job off the lower part of the backboard that looked almost easy) and get a good start. … A lot of it was making it up as you went along."

He had to abandon an elaborate pass-to-himself kind of arrangement in the final after two failures before settling for what was still a stunning winning dunk.

Before they left for home on Saturday to watch the tape-delayed broadcast of the event on TV on Sunday, the Trimble-Tokoto family even took a little side trip down New Orleans' fabled Bourbon Street, sampling some of the fine local cuisine along the way.

"It was just a perfect day," Tokoto said.

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