“He’s already started talking,” Obi Toppin, the 6-foot-9 high-flier of the Dayton Flyers said of his younger brother Jacob. “He actually just texted me two minutes ago.”
UD had just won a hard-fought 71-65 battle against St. Louis on Saturday at UD Arena and Toppin once again had been the Flyers major contributor. Along with 17 points, he had blocked three shots, had three steals, four rebounds and a pair of assists.
But his brother had not mentioned that in that message after the game.
Jacob is a 6-foot-8 freshman who comes off the bench for Rhode Island, the Flyers next opponent. They’ll meet Tuesday night at UD Arena and that’s what Jacob was reminding Obi about.
“So what did your brother say? Toppin was asked.
Reaching for his phone, he grinned and began scrolling his messages:” I’m gonna read you exactly what he said.”
When he found Jacob’s message, he began to read “Uh oh! We coming for it….we….”
Toppin stooped mid-sentence and looked a bit sheepish before he started laughing: “Well ..aaah…I can’t say that. I didn’t know that word was in there.
“So aaah….he just said, ‘We up next!”
The Flyers are now 21-2. They’ve won 12 games in a row, are a perfect 10-0 in Atlantic 10 play and are ranked No. 6 in the nation, so as Toppin noted, everyone has something to say when they’re up next:
“We know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot now and we’re gonna have to dog fight it out for 40 minutes.”
The Flyers knew that would especially be the case with St Louis, a physical team that outrebounded UD by double digits in their mid-January matchup in St. Louis, but lost in overtime on a Jalen Crutcher three at the buzzer..
Toppin said the Flyers knew they had some things to correct for the rematch and he believes that happened. They won the battle of the boards – 33-27 – and had a season-low six turnovers.
Once again Crutcher was a Billiken killer, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
Now comes 18-5 Rhode Island and it’s especially drawing the attention of the Flyers.
“Me and my team have been looking forward to this game because we know the rivalry we kind of have,” Toppin said. “And I can’t wait for the opportunity to be on the court with my brother.”
Jacob played last season at Woodstock Academy in Connecticut and was recruited by UD. He came here with his mom and an aunt to watch Obi play last season and then took an official visit here in May.
Five days later he signed with the Rams.
This season he’s played in all 23 games, started two and is averaging 18.9 minutes, 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. He’s scored in double figures against LSU, Alabama LIU and Richmond.
Obi laughed and said his brother started needling him as soon as he signed with the Rams:
“It’s very competitive when it comes to me and Jacob. When we’re on the court together there’s no friend, no brother.”
And what happens if Jacob’s playing defense when he comes in for one of his jaw-dropping dunks?
“He’s goin’ on SportsCenter,” Toppin said with a chuckle as he envisioned a posterizing dunk. “I have to show him who Big Bro’ is!”
But what if the roles are reversed and Jacob goes up to slam against him?
“No!” Toppin said adamantly. “I ain’t gonna allow it. Just like I can never dunk on my dad, he can never dunk on me. It’s never gonna happen.”
More surprising than shutting down his brother was his admission that he can’t dunk on his dad.
Granted his dad was once a standout player on the playgrounds of New York City and with the trumpeted New York Gauchos, the AAU team whose alumni includes a Who’s Who of New York stars. He also played with minor league pro teams like the Harlem Strong Dogs and Brooklyn Kings.
But Obi dunks on just about everybody. He had three against St. Louis and now has 160 in just 56 career games at UD. He came into Saturday’s game leading the NCAA Division I in dunks.
“No to this day I’ve never dunked on my dad,” he said. “He’ll just grab me out of the air and make sure I don’t dunk.”
He said his dad and his mom will be here for the Rhode Island game, as will his grandparents, aunts, some cousins and other family members and friends.
They not only want to see the brother versus brother showdown, but, like so many people in college basketball, they want to see the red-hot Flyers team in action.
Toppin though said people haven’t yet seen the Flyers best this season:
“We can be a lot better. We haven’t reached our peak. We aren’t even close. We have so much more we can learn.”
A guy from a Columbus-area radio station suggested the Flyers, at 21-2, have been almost perfect.
“No team is perfect,” Toppin countered. “There’s always room to get better. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, they said it: There’s always room for improvement no matter how good you are.”
He said he’ll try to show his best self when he faces his brother.
“I can’t let him score. If he scores, I did my team a disservice.”
But what if Jacob gets one of those breakaways like his big brother so often does?
“I’m not gonna let him, even if I’m on the bench,” Toppin laughed. “I’m gonna sprint off the bench and make sure he doesn’t dunk.”
No more backing off when it comes to his brother,
He did it with the text message, he won’t do it on the court.