Toppin drafted No. 8 overall by New York Knicks, highest UD draft pick since 1955

Obi Toppin becomes the highest overall selection for UD since 1955 with his No. 8 overall selection by the New York Knicks. Photo courtesy of Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

With the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Wednesday night, the New York Knicks selected former UD men’s basketball forward Obi Toppin, making him the highest selection for the Flyers since 1955.

Over eight months since playing his last game at UD Arena against George Washington on March 7, Toppin’s selection is the culmination of years of work, from receiving no DI offers to playing a prep year at Mt. Zion Preparatory School, and finally to the incredible 2019-20 season at UD.

Although the 29-2 record the Flyers racked up was spoiled by the cancellation of first the Atlantic 10 tournament and then the NCAA Tournament, Toppin’s incredible season bolstered him to being the consensus National Player of the Year.

Toppin’s career at UD began with a academic redshirt in his freshman year in 2017-18, before an injury to Josh Cunningham cleared the way for Toppin to play in 33 games, making 15 starts, as a sophomore.

Toppin had solid numbers in 2018-19, averaging 26.5 minutes, 14.4 points, and 5.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 67 percent from the field and making 11 of 21 three-pointers.

The Flyers finished 21-12, but coming into 2019-20, the script would be flipped and Toppin would lead the University of Dayton into the national spotlight.

Winning the first five games – one over No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Edwards and Georgia in Maui – Toppin and the Flyers flew into the Maui Invitational Final against Kansas. Toppin scored 24 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in a hard-fought 90-84 loss in overtime.

Even with the loss, the Flyers gained national respect, jumping into the polls to the No. 19 spot. They won the next four games before losing on a last-second three-pointer against Colorado again in overtime (78-76) to go to 9-2.

Next, the run Toppin and the Flyers went on will long be remembered by Flyers fans. Winning game-after-game and climbing in the polls, the Flyers won the next 20 games (the best in college basketball) and rose as high as No. 3 in the AP Poll.

The Flyers also became the first team to finish 18-0 in A10 play and cut down the nets for winning the A10 regular season championship on March 7.

When the season concluded prematurely soon after that March 7 game against George Washington, Toppin had finished playing all 31 games, averaging 31.7 minutes, 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

Toppin was also highly efficient from the field, shooting 63.3 percent from the field and 39 percent on three-pointers. He led the nation in dunks, which ranged from windmills to between-the-legs to 360s, in a flurry of moves that intensified the roar in UD Arena.

Now, with his selection by the with the No. 8 overall pick, Toppin is pegged by most experts to plug in right away as the most NBA-ready player in this draft class and will get to stay in his hometown of the New York metro area (from Brooklyn).

It will be interesting to see how Toppin plugs into a team with a “logjam of bigs,” per ESPN’s Jay Williams, with Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Kevin Knox. Pairing with 2019 No. 3 overall pick R.J. Barrett and guards Frank Ntilikina and fellow high-flyer Dennis Smith Jr. (2019 NBA Dunk Contest participant) could be fun to watch.

For now, the emotions were a lot to handle for Toppin, who teared up when talking to ESPN reporter Malika Andrews about whether he would have believed his mom, Roni, about his selection just a few years ago.

“I wouldn’t believe her,” Toppin said, with tears streaming down his face. “I swear to God I wouldn’t believe her. It’s just – I’m sorry.”

Roni said she thought it would have been an April Fool’s joke, per Andrews, who asked Toppin how he processes his lottery pick selection.

“It’s a blessing,” Toppin said, pressing back tears. “Without God, I wouldn’t be here. Without my parents I wouldn’t be here, without my teammate right here to the left of me, I wouldn’t be here, I appreciate you bro. Jalen Crutcher, shout out to Jalen Crutcher, I wouldn’t be here without him.

“To my coaches right here in the back, coach (Anthony) Grant, coach (Ricardo) Greer, I would not be here without them. I’m very grateful, and it’s a blessing to be in this position.”

When Andrews asked how important it was to be putting on a Knicks jersey, it was met by applause from his mom, Roni.

“I’m from New York, that’s why it’s important,” Toppin said. “Me repping my city, it’s amazing. A lot of people pray to be in this position, I’m not gonna take it for granted, I promise you that.”

Toppin is the second-highest drafted A10 player ever after No. 2 overall pick in 1996, Marcus Camby.

Johnny Horan was drafted sixth overall by the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1955.

Toppin’s contract is worth $22.2 million, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The Knicks also drafted guard Immanuel Quickley from Kentucky with the No. 25 overall pick, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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