North Carolina, a team many expect to contend for a national title next season, will have to account for the loss of one of its key contributors in order to do so. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, 6-foot-6 junior forward J.P. Tokoto has decided to enter his name into the 2015 NBA Draft.
Tokoto, a starter each of the last two seasons for the Tar Heels, averaged 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for a team that won 26 games and reached both the ACC tournament title game and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. A very good athlete and defender, Tokoto’s currently considered to be a second round pick in this year’s draft.
His perimeter shooting ability, as he shot just over 42 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three (which was a substantial improvement from his sophomore year) this past season, is the primary reason why he isn’t thought to be an even better prospect by NBA decision-makers.
Tokoto acknowledged that he needs to put in a lot of work to improve his shot in the weeks leading up to pre-draft workouts in speaking with Wojnarowski, and he’s yet to hire an agent but intends to remain in the draft. Tokoto also provided an interesting reason as to why he’s decided that moving to the professional ranks would benefit him more than staying in Chapel Hill for another season.
“I feel like there can be a lot more to me as a player, more than just the defensive player who can occasionally dunk the ball,” Tokoto told Yahoo Sports. “I know I can be so much more, but I’m not sure that I’m pushed to be that much more [in college].
“I want to focus on my game, working with trainers and pro coaches over the summer and next year. I think that’ll give me the best chance to grow than staying school and being that player that fit into the mold of my first three years [at Carolina].”
With Tokoto no longer in the fold, more minutes open up for rising sophomore Theo Pinson with classmate Justin Jackson already firmly entrenched in the starting lineup. Pinson missed 14 games due to injury this season, and the time away from the court impacted his minutes upon his return as one would expect.
Pinson didn’t play more than seven minutes in any of the five games he played in after returning in early March from a foot injury suffered in late January. Prior to the injury Pinson played 12 minutes or more in each of North Carolina’s first 18 games.