2012 prospect J.P. Tokota talks of his visit to Duke

JP Tokoto is just fifteen years old but he is already tabbed as one of the best players in 2012
J.P. Tokoto is just fifteen years old but he is already tabbed as one of the best players in 2012

This past weekend Duke held their instructional camp and one of the kids that caught their eye was class of 2012 prospect J.P. Tokoto (6-5, 180, Menomonee Falls, WI).  The budding star was accompanied by his parents, trainer and high school basketball coach.  BDN Premium caught up with Tokoto and got his thoughts on Duke and Coach K –

Can you describe your game in your own words for fans who have yet to see you play?

Offensively I’m more of a slasher than a jump shooter.  I can get by people to shoot or step out for the shot something I’ve been working on.  Defensively, I can get up on ball and defend, deflect the ball for fast breaks and rebound one of the better things I do.

The nations elite basketball programs are all showing interest in you, what is that like for you?

It’s an honor to be recruited by them.  When I hear my name mentioned with [private] Duke or a Kansas I’m happy.  I love the process, it’s fun to me.

You haven’t played the game of basketball that long.  When did you start?

I started playing basketball when I was in the fifth grade and fell in love with it.  I continue to practice and get better.  I know that this can all go away so you have to keep on working. [talking of hype]

You went to Duke this past weekend, what was that trip like?

The Duke visit was really nice.  We didn’t really get to tour the campus or anything because we didn’t have time.  After day one of the camp we took a tour of Cameron and the facilities, saw the coaches room, locker rooms and everything.

What impressed you most about Coach K?

His seriousness and how focused he was.  Even though he jokes and everything, he’s got a serious side to him and means business.

What was the highlight of the visit?

What impressed me most was the coaching staff, was you know, their hospitality and everything.  They really showed they cared watching my games … Coach K pulled me to the side and critiqued me on stuff which I thought was pretty nice in that he took some time with me.  He told me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.  He talked with us about the Olympic experience and everything.

Could you see yourself playing at a school like Duke?

Oh yeah.  I can envision myself playing for them and can imagine myself fitting in.

What schools are coming at you the hardest?

Kansas, Minnesota, Indiana, North Carolina, Duke and Tennessee

What three words best describe you as a basketball player?

Hard working, athletic and explosive

And three words off the court?

Energetic, fun and devoted

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More Tokoto - We have only scratched the surface on Tokoto in that his parents were forthcoming about the trip.  It is obvious that there is a healthy respect for Duke. His parents are big on education and he is making good grades.  They are hands on in raising JP with old fashioned values.  The following comments are from his (step) father –

JP is big on family – “He’ll sometimes get the riding lawn mower and get the children on it.  They call it the “night ride,” where he piles them in a trailer and rides them through the sub division and that’s a big deal for them,” said Pops.

Family in awe of visits – “After North Carolina and Duke we just kind of looked at each other and smiled.  He would smile a smile and mom and dad?  We were right there sharing it with him.  But after the smiles, we kick it back down a notch.  JP was in awe and we try to remind him saying here is your chance.  You’ve been exposed to great universities.  Hands down top notch universities.  Son, if you think it stops here then you are fooled.  We remind him to embrace having this opportunity and that it should be treated with honor.”

Family loves the state – North Carolina was a blast, I mean the whole state!  My wife has a sister that lives there so we feel like we belong because we are home and get to visit family, it was just fun.

On his visit to UNC – It was a blast.  We have much respect, much respect for that program.  It’s one of the staples of basketball.  They treated us very kindly, we got to tour the campus and see what that was about.  Coach Williams spent about an hour with us sharing different stories and pictures.  I would be remiss if I didn’t say it was a unique and fun experience.  It was a fun trip, we were tested great by Coach Williams and his staff.  We have nothing but good things to say about UNC.  And then the very next day we go to the mecca, we go to Duke.

On Duke - We are right there sitting through the camp watching the drills and games and we saw Coach K start off talking to the boys and parents.  Just seeing Coach K, he’s a … a [brief loss for words]  he’s such a calm man, but when you see him on TV he’s not so calm and you don’t catch too many smiles.  Hearing him talk in person and he says such wise things to the boys.  I walked away understanding why the United States chose him to coach the basketball team.  Despite all of the wins he speaks so eloquently about … he spoke about standards.  He didn’t talk about rules, he talked about standards and if they are high enough then the rules are automatically taken care of.  That is so true.  Hearing him share that wisdom was awesome.

On K’s comments - He told the boys, “Don’t go to bed thinking how tired you are, think about how great you are going to be tomorrow and envision it.  I’m listening and the man had me pumped up.  I was ready, I wanted to run out the tunnel.  J.P. told us that night, I  am going out and I am going to play hard tomorrow and he did.  It was a first class event, and I was still talking about it with  his high school coach tonight.  Even the strength coach walks around with a purpose.  I mean that man waled around like I am the strength coach.  I looked around and all of his coaches knew their roles and they were at attention.

On education - Education has to play a lead role in his decision.  “When you go to Duke you feel that academic prestige and besides that they are a mecca in the basketball world.”

On opportunities to be coached – “Coach K was able to get him on the side maybe three times going over his game.  So J.P. got his fair share of tips. ”

Closing comment - “JP would be ecstatic to talk to Coach K and hopefully, sooner rather than later, that opportunity will present itself and I think that might happen soon now that the camp is over.

Quick facts

– JP’s biological Father is former Georgia Tech star, Brian Oliver.

– Wisconsin was the first school to offer him during his freshman year of high school.  Marquette soon followed.

– Tokoto almost averaged a double-double as a freshman in high school.  His Dad fancies him a team player.

– Kansas and Indiana are the most recent schools to offer. [/private]