- C.L. Brown, ESPN Staff Writer
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North Carolina forward J.P. Tokoto checked the box scores and changed his jersey number from No. 25 as a freshman to No. 13 as a sophomore. The seemingly cosmetic gesture could be the best decision of his college career.
Near the end of last season, his minutes diminished, leaving him to wonder what it would take to get back on the floor. In the final 13 games he appeared, Tokoto played sparingly, averaging just 4.3 minutes per game. This came after he averaged 11.1 minutes through the first 22 games of the season.
"I sat down and looked at all the games and box stats and all of that and 13 was the amount of games I actually made a significant difference for my team," said Tokoto, who played in all but one of the Tar Heels' games last season.
Making a difference to Tokoto wasn't based solely on scoring points -- he only reached double figures twice -- but it included his rebounding and impacting the game with defensive plays.
He carried the No. 13, which he will have on Friday as North Carolina holds its annual "Late Night With Roy" festivities, into his strength and conditioning sessions in the weight room. He was still fixated on the numbers when he'd work on his jumper with assistant coach Hubert Davis. It was effectively his sole motivation during the offseason.
"I hold that number in the back of my mind," Tokoto said. "I'm all about forward progress; I want that number to be a lot bigger this year."
Tokoto is one player who will have the chance to benefit from the early absence of P.J. Hairston. He'll get his wish of being in the lineup more while Hairston serves his pending multiple-game suspension.