DURHAM--- Thursday night was the introduction of J.P. Tokoto to Tobacco Road basketball fans as a North Carolina Tar Heel, and he gave them quite a memorable impression.
Showing tremendous speed, athleticism, and all-around talent, Tokoto scored 19 points, including several highlight reel plays, to lead his 'Banks Law Firm' squad to a victory over '751 South,' led by likely ACC 2012-2013 Preseason Player of the Year C.J. Leslie of N.C. State.
Tokoto wasted little time making his presence felt, scoring seven points out of the gate as his team built a double-digit lead early in the second quarter.
He finished the first half with 13 points, which included a three-pointer, an high-flying slam dunk in the lane off an inside pass from Duke's Marshall Plumlee, a steal and coast-to-coast basket, a couple of high-percentage lay-ins in the paint, and a couple of free throws.
Tokoto's team led 41-33 at halftime, but Leslie's team rallied in the third quarter, pulling to within just four points (56-52) heading to the fourth quarter.
Tokoto had two more big-time athletic plays in the third quarter---a nasty full-rotation 360 dunk while all alone in transition, and a fast break mid-air lay-in around Leslie, drawing oohs and aahs from a crowd interspersed with UNC, Duke, and N.C. State supporters.
In the final period Tokoto helped his team pull away, getting an assist to set up a basket that made it 60-52 in the first minute of the quarter, and then finding Plumlee for an alley oop that gave Banks Law Firm a 10-point cushion again at 62-52.
Tokoto's final big play of the night was also the play that drew a collective gasp from the Tar Heel fans in the building, as the UNC rookie grabbed an offensive rebound of his own miss, went back up on the other side of the rim and scored on a quick putback, but tweaked his ankle on the way down.
Falling awkwardly, Tokoto limped off the court and didn't return, finishing with 19 points on eight made field goals, as well as four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Certainly for a few seconds it appeared like a scary thing when Tokoto went down---and anyone that follows UNC couldn't help but think ever-so-briefly about Leslie McDonald and what happened to him this time a year ago at the Pro Am.
But Tokoto got to the bench and was seen minutes after the fall laughing along the sidelines with his teammates.
The UNC newcomer had plenty of support, as many of Tokoto's teammates, including McDonald, P.J. Hairston, Desmond Hubert, Jackson Simmons, and Brice Johnson were all seen watching the game and checking on him after he fell.
It doesn't look as though Tokoto has suffered a severe injury, but certainly any ankle injury can be a nagging thing that can lead to bigger problems if not addressed.
This could mean of course that Thursday was a one-time showing this summer for Tokoto at the Pro Am.
But if so, he certainly left a memorable impression that will leave Tar Heel fans wanting more---much, much more---once the upcoming season arrives.
The Greater N.C. Pro Am organizers are following the same protocol that UNC's media relations staff follows in terms of now allowing freshmen to speak until they've played in a game, so we'll chat with Tokoto once he's gotten action in a game for the Tar Heels.