J.P. Tokoto Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Following North Carolina's season-opening win over Gardner-Webb on Friday night, freshman J.P. Tokoto conducted his first interview as a Tar Heel ...

Listen to Interview (4:57)

J.P., it feels like you committed to Carolina a long time ago. Now here you are, after your first game - what was it like?

"It was exhilarating. Our first exhibition game I had pre-game jitters, but this being our official first game, it was a dream come true."

It looked like when you came in you found different ways to contribute ...

"Definitely, you don't want to get in there and start jacking up shots, that's not what Coach wants. He told every guy how they can contribute this year and that's what I did - I crashed the boards like he wanted me to, distributed the ball to find the open teammate, and finish at the rim."

Your first basket as a Tar Heel - you grabbed the rebound, took the ball to the other end, and the lane to the basket seemed to open up for you ...

"That was just taking what they give me. I was going to pull it out and let our big man post up, but my man slipped off and I didn't know where he went so I just turned the corner and went to the rim strong. "

Overall, how'd you feel about your first performance?

"I feel like I could have done better. I had a few turnovers that were unforced, a few passes that could have been better and turned into layups. Overall I feel like it was a good game, we've got a lot of stuff to work on before we go to Hawaii and we'll be all right."

After weeks of practice, how'd it feel to get to play against another team?

"We've been beating up on each other for a while now, so it feels great to beat up on some other guys now. We had a lot of fun in practice, working with each other, seeing what everyone can do and how everyone contributes in a different way. We really gelled and we're looking forward to this year."

Coach Williams said he thinks you can be one of the great offensive rebounders from the wing ...

"Throughout high school I was a great rebounder, averaged 12 boards a game, and he told me to keep doing what I did in high school, keep crashing the boards. That's what I did tonight, kind of - could have done better, got caught watching a little bit and I'm sure I'll hear about it in film. I'm going to keep crashing the boards and looking for open baskets."

You've been on campus for about four months now. Can you reflect on what it's been like so far to be a basketball player in Chapel Hill?

"It's great. Classes are awesome, you go to the big lecture halls and heads turn when you walk down the aisle, but it's pretty cool - everyone is really nice. It is what I expected. Guys told me it'd get crazy during basketball season and I hear people talking when I walk past - it's kind of cool, and I love it because I'm a people person."

How about the freshman class as a whole - how have the first months been as a group??

"We've been doing great. We've known each other for a while, since before we got to Carolina. I've known Marcus since 8th grade, met Joel at NBA Camp our junior year, met Brice at the Jordan Brand Classic. So we became a tight group even before we got here this summer. We're really having fun, and with the older guys as well."

Did any upperclassman take you under their wing and help you get adjusted?

"Reggie Bullock. Even before I came I was talking to Reggie a lot, asking him what things were like and how he handles stuff. And here he's helping me a lot. Our first practice I was asking him what it'd be like and he was toning it down for me and helped me go out with more confidence - and there wasn't as much running as I thought there would be. He's really taken care of me, P.J. also - we've been hanging out a lot outside of the gym."

You went pretty basic on the breakaway dunk there.

"You know what? I had it in my mind before the game started that if I had a breakaway that I was going to keep it simple ... so I just went up and put it in the hole. Didn't want any misses and Coach being made."

Did you sense the crowd anticipation? They've see the dunks on Youtube, saw what you did in layup lines at Late Night, and so you got the ball out ahead of everyone --

"As soon as they saw the ball go in front of me I'm pretty sure they were expecting something, but I'm sorry to disappoint but we needed the two points at that point."

But it's worth returning to the point that your biggest contributions weren't from dunks tonight. Did Coach Williams stress that in the preseason?

"The biggest way he said is crashing the boards offensively and defensively. He likes the way I see the floor, even when I'm pushing it. So it's not just scoring. It's defensively - he said I could be the best defender on the team - and I really take that to heart and I'm going to work on it to get on the court more."

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