Photo courtesy of University of Dayton Athletics.
By David Cordova
In mid-major conferences all around college basketball, there are plenty of players who stand out and show how talented they are and that they have what it takes when the lights are shining on them. In the Atlantic 10 Conference, there are plenty of gems that rise to the occasion every night. But this season, one player held his own as a freshman and showed that he will be a force in the conference for the next couple of years.
Obadiah “Obi” Toppin, Jr. is a prime example of how hard work begets success. His long odyssey included a prep school season and a redshirt season and then the present day, where he dominated for the Dayton Flyers in his first season of college basketball.
The 6-foot-9 forward is a player that can play inside and out and throw down thunderous dunks to wow the crowds, but also be the x-factor for his team when needed. Every time, he steps on the court, he gives the maximum effort that is expected of him.
When asked what motivates him to be successful in the game of basketball, he replied, “Just playing for the people around me, and playing for my family.”
Basketball has been a part of Toppin’s life for as long as he can remember. And the game was introduced to him by his father, Obadiah Toppin, Sr., who is well known on the New York City streetball circuit for his outstanding play, and also was known as, “Dunker’s Delight,” for his affinity for throwing down thunderous dunks.
The elder Toppin played collegiate basketball at the now-defunct Globe Institute of Technology in Manhattan in the mid-2000’s, where he averaged 23.5 points per game in 2002-03. He would later go on to play professionally in different countries.
When asked about the basketball tutelage from his father, the younger Toppin replied, “My dad played streetball and he also played pro ball overseas and stuff, so every time he’d allow me to work out with him, I worked out with him, and he showed me the game of basketball, it helped me get better.”
Toppin is originally from Brooklyn, but later in his teens, he & family moved to Ossining, New York, which is in the Westchester County suburbs. In his senior season at Ossining High School, which turned out to be his only season of high school basketball to that point, he averaged 20.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, three assists and three steals per game. That performance led him to a section to the All-Section 1 and All-League Team. Prior to that season, he was 6-foot-2 and then developed a growth spurt which brought his height to 6-foot-5.
When asked about his time in Ossining, he replied, “Coming out of Ossining High School, and kind of being someone on top, proving to little kids that they can come out of school and do what I’m doing, it’s just an honor and I’m trying to help the next generation coming up and help them do something they want to pursue.”
In May 2017, Toppin decided to commit to the University of Dayton, spurning offers from schools such as Mississippi State, Illinois, Fordham and Rhode Island. When asked what made him decide to play for the Flyers, he replied, “Just the people that were there, it was an amazing environment, the facilities was nice, I enjoyed being around the guys that are here now, and it was an amazing experience [during the recruiting visit].”
Needing development, he decided to go do a postgraduate year at Mount Zion Prep Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, where he averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. When asked about his prep school experience, he replied, “Definitely, doing that prep year, it allowed me to understand the game more, helped me slow the game down, because I was speeding the game up at first, and it just helped me overall as a basketball player and a person.”
Unfortunately, come the next season, the NCAA ruled him ineligible for participation, which made him an academic redshirt. When asked if he felt the redshirt year helped him, he replied, “Redshirting my first year was like another prep year, it helped me become a man and it helped me work on all aspects of my game that I needed to work on, and I feel like that prep year helped me to become the player I am today.”
When he was finally able to play, Toppin was on a mission from Day 1. This season, he averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Flyers and gained three honors in the Atlantic 10, such as First Team, All-Rookie Team and last, but not least, Rookie of the Year.
When asked about winning the Rookie of the Year, he replied, “I couldn’t have done it without these guys in here, winning Rookie of the Year, because of these guys, I got the shots that I had, I got the defensive plays, it’s all a team effort. So me winning Rookie of the Year, is like them winning Rookie of the Year, too, so, I just thank them every day for the opportunity to help me get to where I gotta get to.”
On playing in the A-10, he added: “Playing in the A-10 is amazing, they don’t really give us as much credit as the higher schools, but I feel like the A-10 schools can compete with anybody in the country.”
On the strengths and weaknesses in his game, he replied, “Strengths, I feel like I could do anything, really. Something I need to work on, just [ball] handling and being under control of going to the basket, and stuff.”
This season, Dayton had a successful season, going 21-11 overall and 13-5 in Atlantic 10 Conference play, but were snubbed for the NCAA Tournament, and wound up losing in the first round of the NIT, 78-73, to Colorado. However, with all of the talent on the team, there’s no doubt that the Flyers definitely have many more chances to dance in March Madness. Toppin is one of the reasons why all of that will be possible.
As he continues to improve on his game, we will all be hearing and seeing more from Obi Toppin in the future.