Senior Lee Becker is happy the Menomonee Falls boys basketball team's turnaround started on his watch.
Freshman J.P. Tokoto is hoping that he can help keep it going.
The pair of CNI/NOW All-Suburban Boys Basketball Team choices were on opposing ends of the spectrum for Indians coach Ben Siebert, but led Falls to its first WIAA sectional final berth since 2002.
The departure of all-state-caliber center Luke Russell changed the roles for both players. Becker became more of a low-post threat.
"My playing time just way up," he said. "I just got more of a chance. I also worked pretty hard in the offseason."
Meanwhile, Tokoto, who had arrived on the scene ranked as high as number two statewide among freshmen and whose grandfather whose name he shares, was a World Cup soccer performer, became more of a defensive and rebounding leader. His outgoing and gregarious nature smoothed his transition from grade-school hoops to varsity ball.
"I had a chance to play with them (the varsity) in the summer league, and it was a very easy fit," he said. "The chemistry was pretty good right away."
That became obvious in how Siebert ran the free-wheeling Falls' offense. Opponents had a difficult choice between putting their best defensive player on either the powerful, low-block ace Becker, who could pop out and hit a 3-pointer, or the creative and athletic Tokoto, who could create his own shot or drive to the rim.
"Teams really had a hard time deciding," Siebert said. "Not a lot of teams have one good big man, and we had two and teams had to pick and choose. We always had someone to go to."
It was this interaction that helped turned the season from a flop to a raging success.
"Lee really flourished this year and played a big leadership role," Siebert said. "He worked very hard to become a solid basketball player. And J.P. has such a spectacular skill set. It holds him above his age level."
Becker is holding his options open as Carroll College, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Milwaukee School of Engineering have all expressed an interest in him playing for them. Tokoto will continue on at Falls, playing summer ball with the Playground Warriors.
They are happy about what they accomplished together.
"It hasn't always been the best program in recent years," Becker said, "so it means a lot to me to set a standard and to have the team looked on with respect again."
Added Tokoto, "We want to go to state. The thought of that has got me excited (for next season) already."
Steven L. Tietz can be reached at (262) 446-6619.
Menomonee Falls' CNI/NOW
2009: Lee Becker, J.P. Tokoto
2002: Brett Hirsch
1996: Marquise Darrington
1993: Brad Christianson, player of the year
1992: Christianson, player of the year
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