Obi Toppin is not the typical freshman. He attended a year of prep school at Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore, Md., after graduating from Ossining (N.Y.) High School. Then he sat out his freshman season with the Dayton Flyers as an academic redshirt.
Toppin turns 21 on March 4. That makes him the third-oldest of the eight scholarship athletes playing this season for Dayton.
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That extra time prepared Toppin to make a big impact in his first season in college basketball. Averaging 13.5 points per game while shooting 69.1 percent from the field, he has turned in one of the great rookie seasons in school history. He's on a roll, too, entering the final five weeks of the regular season with 70 points in his last three games.
“I think it’s just experience,” said Dayton coach Anthony Grant of Toppin’s more consistent play. “The more you play, the more you learn, the more you grow. He’s a guy that loves the game. He’s a guy that plays with a lot of emotion and energy, and he’s really talented.”
Toppin scored 25 points against Saint Joseph's and 26 against Duquesne last week, earning the Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Week award for the fourth time. He could become the first Dayton player to win the A-10 Freshman/Rookie of the Year award, though he would be just as a good a candidate for the A-10 Sixth Man of the Year honor.
Toppin scored 296 points in the first 21 games. That’s the 11th-highest total by a freshman in a season in Dayton history. Tony Stanley set the scoring mark with 431 points in 1997-98, while Johnny Davis set the scoring average record with 14.3 points per game in 1973-74. Toppin’s 13.5 average would rank second, just ahead of Stanley (13.1) and Jim Paxson (13.1 in 1975-76).
Toppin’s last two points totals rank tied for second and tied for sixth in the UD freshman record book. Shawn Haughn set the freshman record with 30 points against Saint Louis in 1994.
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All of this, Toppin has accomplished with efficiency. He leads the nation in field-goal percentage. If his current percentage stands, it would rank second in UD history behind Sean Finn (70.7, 2003-03). He also has 59 dunks, seven short of tying the school record Chris Wright set in 2009-10.
Dayton’s goal moving forward will be to capitalize on Toppin’s growing confidence more and more.
“We try to get him the ball every time in the post because he’s hard to guard,” point guard Jalen Crutcher said.
Postseason news: The Atlantic 10 Conference announced sites for three future men's basketball tournaments on Tuesday.
The event returns to the Capital One Center in Washington, D.C., where it was held in 2018 for the first time, in 2022. In 2023 and 2024, it will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Barclays Center hosted the A-10 tournament from 2013-2016 and will host the event this March and in 2020 and 2021. The Atlantic Coast Conference will hold its tournament at the Barclays Center in 2022.
“Hosting the A-10 Championship in the number one and number six media markets in the United States has been fantastic for the conference,” Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said in a press release. “Both Capital One Arena and Barclays Center are venues our coaches, student-athletes and fans love. Our partnership with these organizations continues to elevate the A-10 Men’s Basketball Championship.”
Dayton at Rhode Island, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO
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