Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
This spring at the IS8 Spring Classic in Jamaica, Queens, there was plenty of talented players in the gym showcasing their respective games in that venue. In that gym, the message is, “Bring Your Name, Not Your Game.”
Jacob Toppin took that message literally and showed and proved in that vicinity. On championship day on May 18th, he was a huge asset to 2G’z as they had to play two games (semifinals and championship) and would emerge victorious. The 6-foot-8 forward may not be the strongest, but he is also the type to hold his own on the floor as he showed his resiliency and heart.
He has superb athleticism and is good at grabbing rebounds and also blocking shots. Next season, he will be showcasing his natural abilities at the University of Rhode Island and playing in the Atlantic 10 Conference. But first, in order to understand him, you must first take it back to the early beginning and also get to know his background, which has made him who he is today.
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “Everyone in my family played basketball, so I look up to everyone older than me who’s playing. My brother goes to the University of Dayton and I just look up to him, and it motivates me how hard he works and how successful he is right now, he motivates me to be like him, but be even better.”
Toppin hails from Brooklyn, New York and his father, Obadiah Toppin, Sr., a former professional player overseas and a streetball legend in New York City, ingrained the game in him from a very young age. “All my life, ever since I was kid, my dad put the basketball in my hands, and we’ve been playing ever since,” said the younger Toppin when asked how long he’s been playing hoops.
His elder brother, Obadiah “Obi” Toppin, Jr., just finished his freshman season at Dayton with Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors and tested the NBA Draft waters before deciding to come back to school for his sophomore season.
When asked about the influence of his father and older brother in his game, Jacob Toppin replied, “They had a hugeimpact on me, because, as a kid, they were always bigger than me, so they pushed me to be a better basketball player, and it always made me work harder, because I wanted to prove myself to them.”
On growing up in New York City, he replied, “It was hard, we were moving from place to place, but the competition and basketball style is just amazing and I love the city.”
In his teenage years, Toppin moved to Ossining, New York, a town in the Westchester County suburbs. When asked about the suburban game, he replied, “The suburban game, it’s not as competitive, it’s not as fast-paced, there’s a whole lot of difference to it, city basketball is definitely the best basketball.”
At Ossining High School, he made it to the All-Section One Team as a senior. When asked about his time at his regular high school, he replied, “I didn’t play varsity basketball until my senior year, and I didn’t catch my first dunk until my senior year. I didn’t play a lot, I was on JV, I was short, and then I grew like four inches from junior year to senior year, and that’s when I started playing like, seriously.”
On the growth spurt that he obtained in high school, he replied, “It helped me a lot, I mean, my knees hurt all the time, but it helped me a lot, because growing up, I was always a point guard because I was so small, but now I’m a 6-8 guard, so like no one can really stop me.”
When asked if he felt as if the growth spurt helped his guard skills any, he replied, “It made it harder to be a guard because I have to stay low, it made it harder to handle the ball, but I’ve definitely gotten better at it, and it’s definitely gotten better as I move forward.”
On strengths and weaknesses in his game, he replied, “Strengths, I can shoot the ball, see the court well, my IQ is pretty well, and I’ve gotten – I’m not saying I’m the best at defense – but I’ve gotten a lot better, but there’s still improvement that I need to do defensively.”
Due to lost time, Toppin did a postgraduate year at Woodstock Academy in Woodstock, Connecticut, which had a very powerful team in the New England Prep Schools Athletic Conference (NEPSAC), which went 38-2 last season.
After the season, he came home and stayed in the gym with his uncle, Victor Monaros, a former professional basketball player who is also a trainer, and credits him with developing his game.
This past spring, he ended up gaining offers from schools such as St. John’s, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and his brother’s school, Dayton. But in mid-May, he finally decided on a school, which would turn out to be Rhode Island.
When asked what made him commit to the Rams, he replied, “Rhode Island, when I went there, it just felt like home, I feel like that’s the best fit for me to better improve my skills and to get me to the next level.”
The day after the IS8 championship game, he was off to campus early for summer session classes and workouts, which all collegiate athletes go through once they are done with high school. Since he has been there, he has been working diligently to improve his game. Next season, Toppin plans to do good things for a very competitive Rams squad under second-year head coach David Cox, who went 18-15 in his first season as last year.
And next season, both Toppin brothers will be playing against each other, whether in Kingston, Rhode Island or Dayton, Ohio. That’s a matchup that will be a sight to see.
But for right now, all Jacob Toppin is doing is planning to improve his game and be the best player he can be. When he does that, opposing teams in the A-10 need to watch out.
When asked what the Rams fans can expect from him next season, Toppin replied, “To be continued, you’ll have to find out later.”