It isn't very surprising that Jean Pierre (J.P.) Tokoto is on his way to a career as a professional athlete. Tokoto's grandfather, also Jean Pierre Tokoto, was the youngest player ever named to the Cameroon national soccer team at 13, and his aunt and mother were both track stars in high school -- so it makes sense that Tokoto, born in Rockford, Illinois, enjoys the limelight.
"I honestly love it," he said.
Tokoto, who heads to North Carolina in the fall to start his college basketball career, was first a soccer player like his grandfather. He didn't play organized basketball until the sixth grade. But it didn't take long for him to become fearsome on the court. By seventh grade he was dunking in games.
"It was unheard of where I was from," he said. "And then it became second
But it's not just natural ability that has brought him to this point. Tokoto spends two hours a day weight training in the gym, and then hits the court for another hour and a half to focus on improving his basketball skills.
Because of all the national attention he gets from games like the Jordan Brand Classic, Tokoto has quickly become a bona fide celebrity, despite not having graduated high school yet. And while he admitted it can be overwhelming at times, he's definitely not complaining.
"Sometimes the attention can be a little hectic, but it comes with the territory," he said. "It's honestly been a lot of fun. I love going out to the supermarket and being recognized, being a role model. I like to think of myself as a social butterfly."
Tokoto certainly seems ready to take the leap from high school kid to
professional athlete, but he's still making sure to cherish his remaining youth.
He spent his off time during the Jordan Classic weekend taking in the Charlotte sights, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which he attended with fellow players and friends like Steven Adams and Brice Johnson. During a party at Strike City, Tokoto was the runner-up in a NBA 2K12 tournament between all the national players, losing in overtime in the championship round to future Kentucky Wildcat Nerlens Noel.
While his team came up short in the game, Tokoto impressed with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. He's excited to move forward -- to college and beyond -- and understands that he will have to continue to work harder as the competition gets fiercer.
"It's the elite of the elite now," he said.
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