College coaches have been flying all over the country this week trying to evaluate and impress high school basketball players during the open recruiting period. One of the most popular places in Wisconsin, was Menomonee Falls High School, the home of Jean-Pierre Tokoto. Tokoto help an “open gym” on Tuesday night, and the list of attendees looked like a “who’s who” in college basketball….
· Duke (Steve Wojciechowski)
· Illinois (Bruce Weber)
· Kansas (Bill Self, Joe Dooley)
· Kentucky (John Calipari, Orlando Antigua, Tony Delk)
· Marquette (Buzz Williams)
· Michigan State (Tom Izzo, Mike Garland)
· North Carolina (Roy Williams, C.B. McGrath)
· Stanford (Johnny Dawkins)
This recruiting period is also important to a lot of die-hard college basketball fans who are trying to figure out who will fill out their rosters over the next few years. As often as fans ask me “Who leads for this guy”, or “Who is the #1 priority”, I am more often asked, “What happens at these ‘open gyms’?” So, when I headed out to Menomonee Falls on Tuesday night, I could have interviewed JP Tokoto, his parents, Ritchie Davis, his coach with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors or Ben Siebert, JP’s high school coach, for a story asking where he would go to college, but the story would have been the same as it has been, “It’s early”. So, instead, I thought I would answer the question of “What happens at these ‘open gyms’?”
As 6:00 approached, college coaches, JP’s family and the Menomonee Falls varsity and JV basketball players started to arrive. Once the players were good and warmed up, they started playing pickup games. In these games, a player like JP looks like he has it easy, but his teammates are not about to take it easy on him. They started off playing two pickup games. JP’s stat lines looked like this….
Game 1: 8 pts on 4-9 shooting, 0-1 from 3pt land, 4 rebs, 1 block and 1 steal.
It looked like it got JP a bit to get going, but he finished the game with two thunderous dunks (looked like he was getting warmed up).
Game 2: 9 points on 4-7 shooting, 1-1 from 3pt land, 4 rebs, 1 assist, 2 steals.
JP was on the receiving end of an amazing alley-oop dunk, and also missed on two other tomahawks that resulted in oohs and ahhs from the dozen or so fans in attendance.
From there they took a break from the pickup games, and the players left the gym for JP’s individual workout. JP was worked out by Thad McGrew and Trevor Trimble, JP’s step father. Here is what that included….
Ball Control Drills
1) Dribble down & back with two balls, with both balls hitting the floor in unison.
2) Dribble down & back with two balls, with balls alternating as they hit the floor
3) Dribble down & back with two balls, bouncing from side to side (imagine swinging your arms from side to side in front of you, now get those arms to dribble as they do it.)
4) Dribble down & back with two balls, bouncing from front to back in unison
5) Dribble down & back with one ball, two bounces with one hand, crossover, two with other hand, crossover etc. etc.
6) Dribble down & back with one ball, two bounces with one hand, between the legs, two with other hand, between the legs etc. etc.
7) Dribble down & back with one ball, two bounces with one hand, behind the back, two with other hand, behind the back etc. etc.
8) Dribble down & back with one ball, one dribble with right hand, two with left, under the legs and behind the back – two dribbles with left hand, one with right, under the legs and behind the back etc. etc.
JP was overly impressive in the ball control drill, demonstrating each drill to perfection, though he struggled a bit with the final drill.
1) Free Throws – 4-5
2) Catch & drive drill from right side, then from left side
3) Catch & shoot drill from right side, then from left side
4) 3 pt shooting drill (stations around the arc)
5) Fight off of a screen, catch & drive from right side, then from left side
6) Free throw drill – 4-5
JP showed a lot of athleticism and body control during these drills, but his shot wasn’t falling. I overheard a classmate a few rows behind me say, “He’s got to be tired, he went through the same work out I did today and I can barely move!” JP found his shot during the 3 pt drill and showed solid range.
From there JP’s teammates returned and the pickup games resumed…..
Game 3: 16 points on 8-14 from the field, 0-1 from 3pt. 5 rebounds, 2 steals 1 assist.
12 of his 16 points were on dunks, only one of which was a ‘basic dunk’. The rest were all highlight reel, show stopper dunks including another alley-oop.
Game 4: 9 points on 4-5 shooting, 1-3 from 3pt. 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist, 1 block.
JP seemed to still have some gas left in the tank, but it was time to wrap things up.
So, there you have it, that is what took place at JP Tokoto’s “open gym”, and pretty much what happens at most open gyms around the country.
So why is it important for college coaches to go? It gives them a chance to show the player and his family that they are important to them, it gives them the opportunity to see the player in a different setting, and in the gym on Tuesday night, it gave them a chance to sample Laurence Tokoto’s (JP’s mom) home made cookies.