After his steal against Davidson early in the second half Friday night, the 6-foot-1 Chapman had taken three quick dribbles up court and found his path unimpeded to the hoop.
With a split-second read of the crowd, Chatman turned to his right and dished the ball to Toppin, who promptly launched himself above the rim for a stretch-back, come-down-hard tomahawk dunk that sent everyone into joyous frenzy.
“First of all I’m just a team player,” Chatman explained later. “I just love getting other guys involved.”
Then, with a smile, he added: “Also I know the fans want to see Obi Toppin dunk the basketball. That was the second reason.
“I didn’t want to get booed.”
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As for Toppin, he had a hunch Chatman would make the assist:
“Rod didn’t have to do what he did, but I know the chemistry. I know our players. I knew he was gonna pass me the ball just because it was gonna rowdy up the crowd.”
He was right and yet – just 28 seconds after that one-handed throw down – things “rowdied up” even more.
On Davidson’s very next possession, UD’s Ryan Mikesell blocked a lay-up attempt and Chatman got the deflection.
Without hesitation, he turned and heaved a two-handed, length-of-the-court pass that bounced once and was snatched by the again-streaking Toppin who, this time, propelled himself upward, did a mid-air pirouette and dunked two-handed, backwards, over his head.
As the crowd howled in delight, Dick Vitale — Dickie V, college basketball’s longtime town crier –bellowed from press row to a national ESPN2 audience:
“Slam, jam, man time! It’s show time! …This team is legitimate, Baby,…in every way, shape and form. Bring on all the big guys. Bring ‘em on!”
Chatman said as soon as he grabbed Mikesell’s flick-away, he knew what to do:
“I just looked and saw Obi ahead of everybody. We trust and believe just to throw it and he’ll go get it. He’s like a track star. He runs the floor tremendously, which makes everybody else better.”
And Friday night the No. 4 Flyers were at their best as they dismantled Davidson, 82-67. They didn't just dunk on the Wildcats and outrebound them 31-16, they made 34 of 47 field goal attempts for an all but unheard of 72.3 percent from the floor.
That’s the best marksmanship by UD team since a March 1, 1986 game against Southern University and it’s another example of why the Flyers are the most accurate shooting team in the nation, hitting 52.6 percent of their shots.
That’s the key to sharing the ball,” Chatman explained. “You give up good shots for great shots. And when you do that the basketball gods seem to reward you every time.”
And no Flyer team ever has put together a more heavenly resume:
• With the victory over Davidson, the Flyers won the Atlantic 10 regular season title, even though there are still two games left. UD is 16-0 in conference play, their best-ever start in any league.
• Their 27-2 start is the best in program history.
• Their No. 4 ranking – which may go up a spot today – is the highest the Flyers have been in the national polls in 64 years.
• Their 18-game winning streak is the longest in the nation.
• Obi Toppin is one of the frontrunners for national player of the year.
• And Anthony Grant is one of the top choices for college basketball’s coach of the year.
Like Vitale crowed from courtside:
“This team is legitimate, Baby!”
Dayton’s Rodney Chatman (right), Obi Toppin (center) and Jalen Crutcher against Davidson on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Chatman was born with basketball genes. His dad, Rodney Jr – which makes the Flyers’ junior guard RC III – played basketball at Southern Cal. His mom – then Glenda Barnes – played for Bethune Cookman.
After two seasons at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — where he played in 61 games, started 33, averaged 13.3 pounts per game as a sophomore, but endured a coaching change and lots of losing – Chatman transferred to UD.
“I kind of saw the culture they had when I came on my visit,” Chatman said. “Coach Grant, the other coaches, they all preach it and the players had all bought in. I saw that from day one.
“And right then I just knew we had something special coming.”
Chatman sat out last season to meet NCAA transfer rules and then this past June in an open gym session, he caught an inadvertent elbow from a teammate that crushed his right orbital bone and broke his nose.
After a surgery in which a steel plate was put in his face – a patchwork which left him with a thin, crescent-shaped scar beneath his right eye — he was fitted with a full face, plastic mask that, hopefully, protects him from further facial injury.
His mom – who said she saw all the shattered pieces of bone in the X-ray – insists he keeps wearing the mask and he agrees, both to stay safe and, as he reiterated Friday, because “I’m a Mama’s Boy.”
If he mirrors his mom, she must be tough as nails because the Flyers have no player whose game is more fueled by in-your-face toughness, collisions and dives onto the court.
“I never undervalue Rodney’s value,” Grant said. “The numbers that show up on the stat sheet (don’t tell) what he means to this team.”
While Chatman is sixth on the team in scoring – he averages 7.9 points per game, but had 14 against Davidson – he is second in assists, first in steals and first, said Toppin, in being “a pest.”
“He’s an amazing player,” Toppin said. “Offensively he can shoot, he can drive and he can pass, And defensively he’s definitely a pest. Everybody hates to play against him because he gets into everybody’s body and forces turnovers.”
After the victory over Davidson – a game in which his mask got knocked off on one play, he took two other solid shots to the jaw and ended up crashing into the floor a half dozen times – Chatman explained his mindset:
“I just play my role and try to bring a level of physicality, grit and toughness to the team. I do whatever it takes for my team to win.”
Dayton’s Rodney Chatman shoots against Davidson on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
For the good of the team
Going back to that last-second Chatman to Toppin dish and dunk, Grant said it was an example of something bigger going on with this team:
“It’s a play that any guy on this team would make for the other guy. It’s just the nature of these guys. Each one of our players sacrifices a little bit and plays a role so that the whole can be greater than the individual parts.”
Chatman explained the unselfish of his team:
“We just know how to play to everyone else’s strengths. We love to see everybody shine.
“And Obi understands all the attention he gets, but he’s humble. That’s why we respect him a lot. We love him. That’s because it’s not about him, it’s about us.”
In a private moment Friday, Toppin – who finished the game with 23 points on 10 of 11 shooting and had 12 rebounds, four assists and four dunks to set a new UD career record at 179 – touched on that:
“I love every single one of my teammates very much. And if it had been the other way around and I had had the ball and Rod was there on the fast break, I’d probably give it to him.”
Then he started to laugh: “But he’d probably say, ‘No!..No!’ He’d say he wanted to see a show, too.”
Plus, it would keep him from being booed.
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