New Dayton Flyers recruit benefits from prep school year

Obadiah Toppin grew four inches in his year at Mt. Zion Prep

Obadiah Toppin signed with the Dayton Flyers on Tuesday night during a birthday dinner for his aunt. They ate at Sweet Chick's, a comfort food restaurant in the East Village in New York City. His whole family surrounded him, holding up UD T-shirts and hats, for a group photo after the signing.

The restaurant is three miles from the Barclays Center, where Toppin’s future team will play in the Atlantic 10 tournament his final three years of college.

Toppin knew plenty about the University of Dayton and the Flyers when he talked to the Dayton Daily News on Wednesday, but he was surprised and excited to learn he would one day be playing in Brooklyn. He was born there and then moved to South Florida with his family before returning to the New York City area. He graduated from Ossining High School in Westchester County in 2016.

However, if Toppin hadn’t spent an extra year getting ready for college at Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore, he wouldn’t have gotten a chance to play for the Flyers.

“That’s what made me basically,” Toppin said. “Before I went to Mt. Zion, I didn’t have one offer. I was going to end up going to Monroe, a JUCO school (in New York City).”

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Toppin was a late bloomer. He was 6-foot-2 as a sophomore, his high school coach Michael Casey said. When he arrived at Ossining as a junior, he battled pain in his knees because he was growing. Casey was the junior varsity coach that season but became the varsity head coach when Toppin was a senior.

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“I really didn’t know what I was going to get from (Toppin),” Casey said. “He ran for an AAU program on the east coast and did very well and started a making a name for himself and then he came back to us for the summer and he was a completely different player. He was healthy. He could run the floor. He could go inside-out.”

Toppin played AAU basketball for coach Jay David, of the New York Jayhawks, before his senior year. Davis kept in touch with Toppin and watched him play several times at Mt. Zion.

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“I felt like he literally could play every position on the floor,” David said.

As a senior, Toppin was 6-5. Casey wanted him to play inside because of his height. He quickly realized Toppin was more comfortable on the wing.

“His range expanded a little bit,” Casey said, “and his stroke got better. He was able to handle the ball.”

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Toppin grew another four inches at Mt. Zion. He is now 6-foot-9, 200 pounds. He averaged 17 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists this past season and started earning more attention from scouts.

Georgia was the first major program to offer him a scholarship. He took official visits to Dayton and Rhode Island and unofficial visits to Georgetown and Fordham. His mom, Roni Toppin, and uncle, Victor Manaros, joined him for the trip to Dayton where he toured campus and UD Arena like every recruit who comes to town.

“I’ve never seen a college gym like that,” Toppin said.

While on campus, Toppin played with Kostas Antetokounmpo and Scoochie Smith among others. Smith, who's from the Bronx, 26 miles south of Ossining, helped sell UD to Toppin just as helped with the last recruit to sign, point guard Jalen Crutcher.

Crutcher and Toppin are the first new recruits to sign with Dayton during the Anthony Grant era.

“He’s amazing,” Toppin said of Grant. “I feel good being under him. He was a NBA coach and also a college coach.”

The signing of Toppin ends the 2017 recruiting period for Dayton, barring any more changes to the roster. All 13 scholarships have been filled.

“He's got great size, skill and athleticism," Grant said. "I think he has a very high ceiling. I think adding him to our team, we're getting a great kid from a great family and a guy that fell in love with Dayton from the time he stepped on campus. I think it's a great fit both ways. It'll be great for us, and it'll be a great place for him. I think it's a good match.

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