Leffel, Tokoto on the same page as Falls hoops enters a new era

May 9, 2011

In the mind of both new Menomonee Falls boys basketball coach Dan Leffel and the Tokoto/Trimble family, it's all about moving forward now.

"I like to have a future way of thinking," said Leffel, who was named last week to replace Ben Siebert, who left the position for personal reasons about a month ago. "Forget about yesterday and think about where we're all going now. The kids know that there's a lot of work ahead of us, but I believe they really want to get better."

And that includes all-state and all-world forward J. P. Tokoto, whose family also made an announcement last week, that the 6-6 North Carolina recruit would indeed be returning to Menomonee Falls for his senior year, despite a tumultuous and largely frustrating (11-12) junior season.

There had been widespread speculation that Tokoto would go to a high-level prep school out east to better prepare for the rigors of basketball life in the ACC, but Tokoto and his family had a different idea in mind.

A refreshing, heartening idea.

"It was a no-brainer for us," said Tokoto's father, Trevor Trimble. "This is where we live. For us, it's not always about wins and losses. That's not what my wife (Laurence) and I teach J.P. It's not all about us.

"It's about dedication, respect and humility," Trimble said. "We knew that we had something special (in Tokoto) when he started here his freshman year, but we didn't think we'd be sitting here with the opportunities that we've been given.

"We're so thankful, myself, my wife and J.P., to be in this situation and given that, we wouldn't want to close his high school chapter any other way."

Young team awaits

And Leffel is grateful for that turn of events on many fronts, as he will be dealing with a very young team next year, and will look forward to the leadership that Tokoto and fellow senior veteran C.J. Malone can provide.

"His return gives us a primary scorer, and with C.J., we have two legitimate threats and that enhances our ability to stretch defenses," Leffel said. "We're also looking to those two becoming better leaders, helping everyone become better, because we'll be doing a lot of work developing the other kids. Making sure they get better, too.

"We'll also make sure that those kids know all about the opportunities that are available this summer to them through AAU ball."

And Trimble says that Tokoto is welcoming the idea of being looked up to for more than just his prodigious hoops skills.

"He wants to try and become a better leader," Trimble said, "and put in more time in regards to that. Try to elevate everyone else. We feel everything will work itself out in its own way, because we all know that it's not about J.P., but it's about the 12 to 14 guys on the team and the coaches who all will put in endless hours trying to get better themselves.

"Coach Leffel is a great guy, very high-energy," Trimble said. "He's all about energy and humility and those are two great qualities that can be highly contagious. I think he'll do an excellent job."

Familiar with players

Leffel, who's been associated with the Falls program for eight years, the last few seasons as the freshmen coach, appreciates the "thumbs-up."

"Overall, everyone is pretty upbeat," he said. "Having been around as long as I've been, the guys know what I'm all about. I've been involved with them (coaching) on the freshmen and youth levels and I've had some of them in class (at North Middle School).

"They know my motivational technique and that I'll demand a lot but I will also pick them up when they need it," Leffel said. "They know I'm not going to lead with an iron fist. That I have the right intentions."

Leffel has already made that clear. He has his staff already in place, has made the proper connections with the area youth programs and he met with the team at an informal open gym May 5.

"My number one goal was to make sure that the summer programs were all set up, the camps and things like that." Leffel said. "Making sure that the T-shirts and the fliers were all in place. I've been sending out lots and lots of emails.

"… Now the main thing is, is how well I use my five contact days with the kids."

And that's just fine by Trimble, who's pleased with how quickly and professionally the district filled the position. It's a characteristic that has been demonstrated to him by the Falls staff for some years now.

"The principals, Dave Petroff (the athletic director), the guidance counselors, the teachers have all gone the extra mile," he said. "Even the custodians, who give the guys an extra few minutes to launch some shots in the gym. It all really helps make our community special," he said.

And should help launch a new era on the right foot.

The Leffel file

Veteran Falls coach Dan Leffel named to head hoops program

HIGH SCHOOL: Greenfield High School, 1994

COLLEGE: Wisconsin Lutheran College, 1999

CURRENT POSITION: sixth-grade science teacher at Falls North

FALLS BASKETBALL EXPERIENCE: joined staff as eighth-grade coach in 2003 under Jim Cole; was later Dave Kramer's varsity assistant and became the freshmen coach under Siebert; had previous experience at Wisconsin Lutheran College and Wauwatosa West High School

QUOTE: "This has been a goal of mine for my entire life. I started out wanting to be a college coach, but that wasn't going to work out with my work schedule. But I feel that this is a great opportunity and goes to show that good things happen to those that work hard and want to make things happen."

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