Earlier today I wrote (LINK) that the Tar Heels need to man up and show some hustle and heart on the court for 40 minutes. One player that I failed to exclude from that evaluation is freshman JP Tokoto. Going into the season I wrote several times and felt certain that Tokoto would have a very small and almost meaningless role on a roster stacked with perimeter talent.
My reasoning was sound, Tokoto is raw, a tremendous athlete lacking a jump shot on a roster with experienced more rounded players who play the same position. But the one thing you cannot predict, the one thing you cannot measure in stats is hustle and hear and JP Tokoto has a whole lot of both.
Tokoto has earned playing time with his ability on the defensive end of the court and Roy’s small lineups he has went with during stretches this season. The freshman is earning the confidence of his coach as evidence in Saturdays game against East Carolina early in the second half with UNC playing sloppy basketball and showing signs of letting up after taking a 16 point lead into half time Roy tapped Tokoto to enter the game first off the bench to restore order.
Aside from Dexter Strickland who when 100% healthy is probably the best perimeter on ball defender in college basketball, Tokoto is the teams best defender on the wing and has proven himself a tough rebounder and capable defender in the post when the Heels go small.
The freshman plays with a high basketball IQ and puts himself in good positions to succeed on both ends of the court. We’ve only seen a few examples of his unreal athleticism on the offensive end that made him famous coming into college, instead we have been introduced to something far greater his toughness.