NBA Draft: Obi Toppin will start pro career in his hometown

Former Dayton star drafted by New York Knicks in first round

Obi Toppin will begin his professional basketball career in his hometown.

The New York Knicks selected the former Dayton Flyers forward, who was born in Brooklyn and went to high school north of New York City in Ossining, with the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft on Wednesday.

» DRAFT HISTORY: Looking back at Dayton’s top picks

Toppin had an emotional reaction after seeing his name called on ESPN. His parents Roni and Obadiah sat next to him. Former teammate Jalen Crutcher, his best friend, sat to Obadiah’s left on the couch as they were interviewed. Dayton head coach Anthony Grant and assistant coach Ricardo Greer were also in the room in New York City. Toppin held an iPad in his lap as his brother Jacob, who plays for the Kentucky Wildcats, joined the celebration virtually from Lexington, Ky., via Facetime.

“I want to thank God,” Toppin said through tears on ESPN. “Without him, I wouldn’t be here. Without my team, I wouldn’t be here. Without my teammate to the left, I wouldn’t be here. I appreciate you, bro. Shoutout to Jalen Crutcher. I wouldn’t be here without him. Coach Grant, Coach Greer, I wouldn’t be here without them. I’m very grateful. It’s a blessing to be in this position.”

Toppin wore a purple and black tuxedo, which he showed off earlier in the day for the first time while promoting Chipotle, which provided dinner for his guests on draft night.

Asked what it meant to be drafted by a team in his hometown, Toppin said, “I’m from New York. That’s why it’s important. Me repping my city, it’s amazing. A lot of people would love to be in this position.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, who played against Dayton and Toppin in the Maui Invitational last November, with the No. 1 pick. The Golden State Warriors drafted 7-foot-1 center James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick.

The Charlotte Hornets took guard LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 pick. Florida State forward Patrick Williams went to the Chicago Bulls with the fourth selection.

Experts expected Toppin to be drafted anywhere from No. 4 to No. 13 with Cleveland being the most popular pick for him, but the Cavaliers drafted Auburn forward Isaac Okoro with the No. 5 pick. With the No. 6 pick, the Atlanta Hawks drafted Onyeka Okongwu, a forward from Southern California. The Detroit Pistons then drafted Killian Hayes.

The draft marks the beginning of a new journey for Toppin, who arrived at Dayton in the spring of 2017 as unrated recruit and ended his career in March of 2020 as the consensus national player of the year and the first Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year from Dayton.

» ARCHDEACON: One last alley-oop between Crutcher and Toppin

In two seasons at Dayton, Toppin scored 1,096 points, a total that ranks 39th in school history, and set a school record with 190 dunks. Toppin scored 621 points last season, tying Roosevelt Chapman (1982-83) for the 10th-highest total in one season.

Here’s what the news means for the Dayton basketball history book:

• Toppin, a 6-foot-9 forward who spent three years at the University of Dayton and two on the court, is the first Flyer drafted since Kostas Antetokounmpo, the 60th and last pick in 2018.

• Toppin is the first Flyer taken in the first round since Jim Paxson, who was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 12 pick in 1979.

• Toppin is the first Dayton player drafted by the Knicks since Mike Kanieski, who was a sixth-round pick in 1982. The Knicks also drafted Erv Giddings in the fourth round in 1978, Don May in the third round in 1968, Bobby Joe Hooper in the eighth round in 1968 and Don Lane in the fifth round in 1958.

• The second recruit to commit to Anthony Grant’s program after he became head coach in 2017, Toppin is the first player recruited by Grant to Dayton to make the NBA. Antetokounmpo was recruited by Archie Miller but played his one season at Dayton with Grant.

• Toppin is the 41st player in school history to hear his name called in the NBA Draft but just the second this century. Prior to Antetokounmpo, a Dayton player had not been drafted since Negele Knight, a second-round pick (No. 31 overall) of the Phoenix Suns in 1990.

• Toppin is the highest-drafted player from the A-10 this century and the first first-round pick since Saint Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry (No. 21 in 2016). The last A-10 player drafted in the top 10 before Toppin was Rhode Island’s Lamar Odom (No. 4 in 1999). The only other top-10 pick in conference history was Marcus Camby, the Massachusetts star who was picked second in 1996.

» MORE ON TOPPIN: Everything you need to know about the former UD star

• When he makes his NBA debut, Toppin will be the 23rd former Flyer to play in the league.

Here’s the list of Flyers who have played in the NBA: Don Meineke (1952-57); Chuck Grigsby (1954-55); Chris Harris (1955-56); John Horan (1955-56); Jim Paxson Sr. (1956-58); Jim Palmer (1958-61); Bucky Bockhorn (1958-65); Henry Finkel (1966-75); Roger Brown (1967-75); Bobby Joe Hooper (1968-69); Don May (1968-75); Donald Smith (1974-75); Johnny Davis (1976-86); Jim Paxson Jr. (1979-90); Sedric Toney (1985-90); Negele Knight (1990-99); Chris Wright (2011-14); Chris Johnson (2012-16); Brian Roberts (2012-17); Charles Cooke (2017-18; Jordan Sibert (2019); and Kostas Antetokounmpo (2019).

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