UNC Basketball: J.P. Tokoto Needs to Stay in the Starting Five


Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There is a huge problem in Chapel Hill around the Tar Heel men’s basketball team that I don’t think too many other teams are dealing with. It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen very often in college basketball and when it does, needs to be handled the right way. The Tar Heels are so talented at the wing position next year, they have three potential starters on the roster in Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson, and J.P. Tokoto. I’m going to give all you Heels out there three reasons why Coach Williams should start the veteran Tokoto over the highly touted freshman Pinson and Jackson.

#1 – The 2005 national championship team had a similar problem.

Today’s college basketball game is vastly different than it was during even the Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants era. I look to the 2005 roster when I make this argument for Tokoto. In 2005, Roy Williams had a big time recruit in Marvin Williams with the talent to start, but accepted the 6th man role in favor of a veteran player, Jackie Manuel. There is a very strong possibility of the Tar Heels already starting one freshman at the point guard position in Joel Berry. If Coach Williams decides to bring both of those freshman off the bench together it will allow them to come in the game against possibly a second unit and get out and do what they do very well, which is attack and get to the basket.

#2 – Bench scoring is more important than people think.

Both of these recruits, Pinson and Jackson are guys that will be looking to score points. To have firepower like that coming off your bench, added to their athletic ability will make the Tar Heels one of the most dangerous second units in the NCAA. Tokoto needs to be on the floor at the start because of his defensive ability and veteran status. I’ve always been under the thought process of improving your team when you go to the bench and these two guys coming off the bench will do just that. Tokoto started all year for the Tar Heels, improved his value to the team, and deserves this spot on a team with big aspirations.

#3 – Marcus Paige needs experienced players in the starting five.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Joel Berry does win the starting point guard job next year. As I stated in my article about Marcus Paige, playing the point does not come easy for UNC point guards under Roy Williams. Raymond Felton struggled, Ty Lawson struggled, Kendall Marshall struggled, and I’ve got to believe Berry will struggle a little to start off as well. I don’t want to see Paige on the floor with two freshman that are “green” and unsure how the system is supposed to be run. This is also true for Berry’s sake. It will be easier for him to make plays with two juniors that have experience as starters in this system that can walk him through the mine fields at the beginning.

Final thoughts:

The “huge problem” for the Tar Heels is a great problem to have. I believe that keeping the two freshman wings on the bench for the opening tip is best for this team. It will be good for the psyche of Pinson and Jackson to not get too high or too low on themselves if one starts and the other doesn’t. It’ll also be good for Tokoto to not think that after the solid sophomore campaign he just had, it’s not taken away from him because of the “next big thing” coming in.