Duquesne’s defensive players could have learned a thing or two from Roni Toppin.
She stayed on her son a lot better than they did Saturday afternoon.
“My mom called me every two seconds talking about it,” Obi Toppin said after he and his Dayton teammates pushed aside Duquesne, 80-70, in a game at UD Arena where he scored 28 points and topped the 1,000-point career mark after just two seasons in a Flyers uniform.
“She’s been counting down from like 150. She was like ‘You need this much’ and ‘Now you need this much.’ And I was like ‘Alright Mom!’”
The 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore now has scored 1,007 points in his 60 college games.
Immediately after the game – once the players had made their traditional trek to the far end of the court to high five and thank their always amped fans in the Red Scare student section – the team gathered at center court and coach Anthony Grant handed Toppin the game ball to commemorate the moment
Toppin now is one of 50 UD players to reach that four-digit plateau and it’s safe to say none of those others – many forever saluted by the Flyers Nation – have ever been more beloved by their teammates than Toppin is by his.
They all congratulated him and mugged for the camera and seemed to fully enjoy the moment. So did Grant and his assistant coaches, as well as the fans, many of whom had stayed to stand and applaud.
Afterward Toppin went out of his way to deflect praise to his teammate:
“I have amazing people around me,” he said. “My teammates coaches and the fans, they’re all amazing.
“A thousand points means a lot, but all the credit goes to my teammates. Without them I wouldn’t be getting any points. All their assists, the way they spread the floor We have a really good offense that helps everybody and it especially helped me tonight.”
His 1,000th point came at the 11:14 mark of the second half when Jalen Crutcher made a one-handed pass to Toppin in the paint to set up two-handed slam.
That Crutcher – who had 17 points Saturday and has 1,109 in his three UD seasons – made the assist was especially meaningful to Toppin.
The two have teamed up on many of his 172 career dunks. They know each other’s every move on the court and off of it they are roommates and best friends.
“A lot of people found me out there today, but on that one it happened to be Jalen,” Toppin said quietly.
“I love him.”
That wasn’t said flippantly and it didn’t come off hokey.
He said it with sincerity and without a second thought.
All the Flyers – not just Crutcher – feel the embrace of their star and the appreciate him for it.
“Outside of basketball he is the best teammate you could have,” said senior Trey Landers, who added 12 points and 11 rebounds Saturday. “And on the court there’s no one like him either.”
Landers said that again became jaw-dropping clear to him with 2:45 left in the game.
“I caught the ball in the middle and was about to go in for a lay-up when I saw his man coming over,” he said. “I wrapped the ball around to (Obi) and he took it and never took a dribble. He just jumped and wind-milled a dunk.
“It was the play of the day. I’ve never seen nothing like that before. Never in my life! That was very, very, very difficult.
“In my opinion – and you might think this is over the top – he’s the best player in the country. I’ll go to war with that. I don’t care who you’re talking about, he’s the best player in the country
“He can do everything and what sets him apart even more is the type of teammate he is. I’ve never been with anyone better.”
Before games, during games, after games, Toppin can be found chatting up his teammates, the refs, the opposing players, the fans, absolutely anyone he sees. Before the opening tip, he’s llke a politician on the campaign trail. He shakes hands with everyone on the court.
If someone in the stands held a baby out, he’d likely kiss it, too.
That sheer joy rubs off on everyone around him and is one reason this team has a special chemistry, which, in turn, has led to a 25-2 record, the best start in program history, and a No 5 national ranking, the loftiest rating the Flyers have had since the end of the 1955-56 season.
Their 14-0 record in the Atlantic 10 is their best start in any conference play ever.
After the game Grant credited the way Toppin carries himself and said it has been a big part in establishing the identity of the team.
“They get along on and off the court and enjoy being around each other. They all have a good amount of respect for each other.”
And they all seem to relish in Toppin’s fame this season.
He’s one of the most talked about players in college this season and he is making a lasting mark in Dayton Flyers history. Next season he’s likely off to the NBA as a lottery pick, but that’s not something he talks about publicly.
He’s committed to this team reaching postseason heights rarely realized here and along the way he wants to cement a few marks in the Flyers record book.
He’s six dunks way from breaking Chris Wright’s career mark of 177.
He can be sure his mom will be counting that mark down to him ,as well.
She’s not one to hold back on what she’s thinking.
That was evident 12 days ago when the Flyers ran roughshod on Rhode Island at UD Arena and Obi outplayed his younger, less experienced brother, Jacob, who is an off the bench freshman for the Rams.
The Red Scare section – including the pep band which was sitting next to Roni – began to chant: “Obi’s better!… Obi’s better!”
That triggered her protective instincts and she stood and chanted back at them” “Obi’s older!…Obi’s older!”
Saturday Toppin smiled when that showdown was brought up again:
“That’s just my mom. She doesn’t care. If they do it to me, like when we go to Rhode Island (March4) she’d do the same thing. She just feels each of us should be equal.”
Then with a smile, he whispered: “But we were not equal. I was better and the fans may have known it.”
That was the case again Saturday and it wasn’t just the fans who felt that way.
As Landers said: “With everything he does on the court and off, he’s the best player in the country. Period.”
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