CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- J.P. Tokoto signed with North Carolina for the tradition, Roy Williams and to win a national title, but another big reason Tokoto was excited about being a Tar Heel was to have the chance to learn from swingman Harrison Barnes.
That won’t happen now.
Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson all declared for the NBA draft recently, and for Tokoto that meant just one thing.
“We’re gonna have to be ready to step right in and produce,” said Tokoto, a bouncy forward at Menomonee Falls (Wis.). “We’ve still got plenty of talent, but I think we may get called on a little earlier than most people thought we would.”
Brice Johnson feels the same way, and he said he’s ready for whatever the staff needs him to do.
Johnson and Tokoto are teaming up this weekend at Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the East. Another UNC commit, Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) point guard Marcus Paige, was supposed to play in the game, but he had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and couldn’t travel. Dwyer (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) forward Joel James rounds out the Heels’ 2012 class.
“We’re all gonna need to be ready sooner,” said Johnson, a forward at Edisto (Cordova, S.C.). “That’s fine with me, though. Bring it on. I’m ready. I’ve just gotta gain weight.”
He’s contemplated giving up track, because the little weight he does gain ends up falling right off with training. But when you’re the reigning state champion in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, it’s hard to walk away.
“I’m about 210 now, but I’m gonna get it up,” Johnson said. “I eat a large pizza and a half of another large in one sitting, so I’m going hard at it. Either way we’re gonna be ready. All of us. I don’t want fans to drop their standards. We will show people next year. We’re gonna be a force.”
The probable starters for the West are Rasheed Sulaimon, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. The probable starters for the East are Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Rodney Purvis, Nerlens Noel and Tony Parker. Both lineups are as of Friday and could change by game time.
2K Challenge Owned by Wildcats
Last year, Anthony Davis took home the Jordan Brand Classic NBA 2K Challenge. Davis went on to win the Wooden National Player of the Year Award and be named NCAA Most Outstanding Player after leading Kentucky to the national title.
This year, Noel kept the Kentucky tradition alive when he and the Miami Heat took out Tokoto and the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime.
“It’s just the Kentucky swag already coming on me,” said Noel, who announced for Kentucky Wednesday night on ESPNU. “All we do is win, no matter what. What can I tell ya?”
Once Muhammad announced that he would take his talents to UCLA next season, he made it clear what his first order of business would be with the Bruins.
“I’ve got to get Tony [Parker] to come along with me and Kyle [Anderson],” said Muhammad, a swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “I think we can get him. He’d just bring a lot to the team next year. I think with him in the class we’d be set.”
Anderson, who was the first to commit to the Bruins, will team up with Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), on the East against Muhammad at the Jordan Brand Classic this weekend. But if he has it his way, this will be the last organized game that the three are divided.
“We’ve got to get Tony,” said Anderson, a point guard at St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.). “I think with me and now Shabazz coming at him, it’s even more appealing to him. We’ve been on him all week here. I think we’ll be able to get it done.”
Sulaimon is on Point
With West point guard Paige out, Sulaimon will have to step in and run the point.
“I’m very comfortable running the point,” said Sulaimon, a shooting guard at Strake Jesuit (Houston). “I’m willing to do whatever I’ve got to do in order for my team to get this win. That’s all I’m worried about. This will only continue to help me develop.”
Sulaimon, a Duke signee, said that the Blue Devils’ coaching staff has talked to him about running the point at times next season.
“I’ve talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski about it and they want me to be ready to play some point next season,” Sulaimon said. “I’m fine with that. I’ve always trained to be versatile in the backcourt and even though I’m a scorer first I know the importance of setting my teammates up. I’ll be ready to roll.”
Highlight of the Practice
East point guard Anderson threw swingman Tokoto an alley-oop and Tokoto caught it and did a 360 dunk. The gym went into a brief frenzy.