Player Profile: J.P. Tokoto

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The wing player faded into the background towards the end of last season. With Hairston sidelined and a host of freshman coming in, will he carve out the space to excel?

If anyone stands to benefit from P.J. Hairston's misadventures this summer, it's the person backing him up on the wing, J.P. Tokoto. In fact, Tokoto finds himself in a similar position as Hairston was at the beginning of last season; someone with great potential who needs to improve his game to crack the starting lineup. That, however, is where the similarities end. Hairston was a confident three-point shooter who needed better mechanics and an improved defense. Tokoto only attempted 11 threes the entirety of last season, the last one coming February 2nd against Virginia Tech. Instead he earned his playing time with great athletic ability and the best steal rate on the team. We saw a lot less of him in the last two months of the season though, and with a big recruiting class coming in, he'll have to scrap for increased palying time.

It's worth noting that one of the repeated themes of the ACC Media Days was the fact that, even with Hairston benched, the three open starting jobs had not yet been filled. I must confess, I can't really decide whether Tokoto will be on the floor for the first tip-off. He'll sit out the first exhibition game for a paperwork problem involving a Milwaukee league where he played two games this summer.

He's spent significant time with Hubert Davis improving his jump shot, but I would still expect primarily a slash-and-drive attack from him this year as opposed to a distance game. Think more of a Dexter Strickland style, but from the three-spot. He'll have to improve his team-worst turnover rate, His playing time might also be affected by the type of lineup Roy Williams settles on. There's been talk of running a two-point guard offense (Paige and Britt) that would naturally squeeze Tokoto's playing time. Similarly, running a post-heavy presence (with five big men vying for playing time, we could easily see McAdoo play the three) would also find Tokoto on the outside looking in.

Still, there a few players more likely to thrive in Roy Williams' offense than Tokoto. His style of play stands to benefit greatly from recent rule changes limiting player contact, if the refs hew to them. You typically see the greatest improvement in a player between their freshman and sophomore years; if Tokoto makes that leap he'll be positively electrifying to watch.

And after all, no one on this team has a better leaping ability than he does.

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