Tokoto made his reputation above the rim, but his summer has been devoted to more ground-oriented details.
Tokoto made his reputation above the rim, but his summer has been devoted to more ground-oriented details.
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Season Analysis: J.P. Tokoto
Release: 09/05/2013

By Adam Lucas

Season stats: 2.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG

Per-40 minute stats: 12.1 P, 7.8 R

Season in a sentence: J.P. Tokoto is a highlight reel waiting to happen, but was most effective as a freshman when he was doing the little things.

Season highlights: Tokoto scored six points in the season opener, making three of his four field goal attempts against Gardner-Webb. His 10-point, five-rebound outing against East Carolina might have been his best game of the season. He was one of the few Tar Heels to play well both at Texas (six rebounds) and at NC State (5-of-7, 10 points).  

That game in Raleigh came during a three-game ACC stretch when it looked like Tokoto might be wriggling his way into the rotation, as he played double-digit minutes against Georgia Tech (18), NC State (17) and Boston College (13).

But if you were making a list of Tokoto's signature freshman year plays, you'd have to start with something that didn't even happen during a game. It happened during a practice session in Kansas City, when he dunked over Joel James:

Against the ACC: That three game stretch mentioned above was essentially Tokoto's primary ACC action. He had two other league games with double-digit minutes, scoring four points in 12 minutes in the home loss to Miami and posting two points in 11 minutes (but with four turnovers) against Wake Forest. It was those turnovers that helped speed his departure from the rotation, as he committed 12 turnovers in five games at midseason.

Tokoto had per-40 figures of 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds against the ACC. He was limited by a bruised wrist during part of the conference season, and had to sit out the home game against Florida State.

Postseason: The Wisconsin native scored just one basket in Carolina's five postseason games, and was mostly a bit player in the ACC Tournament (eight minutes in three games) and NCAA Tournament (nine minutes in two games).

Areas of improvement: It's hard to watch Tokoto and not have the feeling that you're seeing someone who is in the process of becoming a major contributor. His athleticism, clearly, is his defining trait, but he also understands the game and is smart enough to know what he needs to work on.

That includes his midrange and perimeter game, which has been an offseason focus. Tokoto shot just 48.8% from the field as a freshman, which is too low for someone with his explosiveness. More tellingly, he also made just 1-of-11 three-pointers. As a side note, while watching him shoot with Hubert Davis on Wednesday afternoon, he swished-cleanly swished, no touching the rim-seven three-pointers in a stretch of nine attempts. It could have been nothing but a hot ten seconds, but his shot looked smooth and the rotation was much better (he has, indeed, made a technical adjustment to his mechanics).

But it's unlikely the Tar Heels will need Tokoto to be the primary perimeter scoring threat this year. He could carve out a place by playing defense and rebounding-remember that Roy Williams said last year that Tokoto has the potential to be the best offensive rebounder he has ever coached. As he gets more comfortable with the ACC level of play, it's likely he will do a better job of picking his opportunities to crash the glass.

Like two of his freshman classmates (Brice Johnson and Joel James are the others), Tokoto had an assist/turnover ratio of 1:1 or worse, and needs to make better decisions. Once he realized his minutes were going to be limited last season, he sometimes tried to cram 25 minutes worth of plays into about eight minutes of game action.

Season stats: 1: The number of field goals Tokoto made in Carolina's last 13 games.

17.7: Tokoto collected a steal every 17.7 minutes, the best figure among Carolina's rotation players last season. He added a steal every 15.7 minutes against ACC opponents, also the best figure on the team.

360: Before he leaves Chapel Hill, you just know it's coming in a game.

Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist and the editor of Carolina digital magazine.

UNC North Carolina Men's Basketball

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