Menomonee Falls - The post-J.P. Tokoto era has arrived for the Menomonee Falls boys basketball team.
And despite prognosticators' dire predictions, coach Dan Leffel is an optimistic man.
'Expectations are low from outside people,' he said, 'but they are still high inside the program. I believe we will surprise some people. I think we can have a very competitive season.'
The Indians, who were 14-10 in the North Carolina recruit and all-stater Tokoto's final season, open their season on Nov. 30 at nonconference opponent Sheboygan North. Fellow recruit C.J. Malone has taken his 14 points a game to the collegiate ranks, too.
The only returning starter is 5-8 senior guard Brandon Ramey, who has followed North Carolina coach Roy Williams' advice and taken his vitamins and gotten bigger and stronger. 'He's put on about 15 pounds of muscle,' Leffel said.
Other veterans expected to help include 6-5 senior Devon Nauer, 6-2 senior Zach Murray, 5-11 senior Vadial Shields (three-year letter-winner) and 6-3 junior Jason Precia.
Leffel said the team will rely on a great many juniors off an 11-11 junior varsity.
They include 6-1 Anthony Russo, 6-2 Jerry Murphy, 6-4 Dan Dahlke, 6-2 Jake Shore, 5-10 Devin Jackson and 6-0 Jordan Richardson. 5-8 freshman guard Juwan McCloud brings a lot of potential to the team.
Things have changed for Falls, noted Leffel.
'It is a different feel out here (without Tokoto),' Leffel said. 'It would be nice to have the same crowds that we had with him here, but to do that we have to be successful and give the fans a reason to come to the gym.
'But it is going well. This is a very coachable group of guys and they do everything the coaches ask. We have 12 guys out there who can fill roles. Who can play both sides of the court well. Whatever five we put out there will be able to hurt you.'
The Indians scrimmaged Waukesha North, Kenosha Bradford, New Berlin Eisenhower and Waukesha South recently and Leffel was encouraged by what he saw defensively. It took a little while to get the offense moving, but he said that things are moving forward in that department.
'A lot of people asked what it will be like in the post-J.P. world and one of my assistants said, 'We're just reloading,' ' Leffel said. 'We have a lot more talent than we're given credit for. I'm not sure we're absolutely ready yet, but we'll get there because our seniors have become good leaders.'