Originally slated for June, the NBA Draft was forced to be postponed several months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, that did not take away any of the excitement, as a couple of basketball players with local ties — Obi Toppin and Cole Anthony — were selected virtually on Nov. 18 as the first step to establishing their NBA careers.
Toppin was born in Bushwick and fittingly was drafted No. 8 overall by the New York Knicks. The selection is the highest for a New York City player in more than two decades — Christ the King H.S., Middle Village, product Lamar Odom was selected No. 4 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft.
Toppin’s uncle is Bishop Loughlin H.S., Fort Greene, assistant varsity boys’ basketball coach Victor Monaros, who is entering his fourth season coaching the Lions. Monaros also played basketball as a small forward for Bishop Loughlin from 1996-2000 and was a member of the team ranked No. 7 in the country under head coach Bob Leckie.
From a young age, Toppin had a passion for basketball, which Monaros realized right away. The talent was always there, but it was Toppin’s drive and demeanor that led him to greatness.
“New York City is the Mecca of basketball, so when you’re a Brooklyn kid, what you’re going to play outside is basketball and indoors is basketball also,” Monaros said. “He (Toppin) was always around basketball.”
The 6-foot, 9-inch Toppin starred as a power forward for the University of Dayton, Ohio. This past season, he racked up the award honors including National College Player of the Year, First Team All-American, the Karl Malone Award for the nation’s top power forward and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
Of all 30 teams that could have selected Toppin, it’s fitting that the Knicks made the selection. It almost seems like something right out of a storybook fairy tale, so now it’s up to Toppin to write the chapters as he builds a career in the Big Apple.
“He (Toppin) has tremendous skills for this level of basketball,” Monaros said. “As long as he stays grounded and humble, he should fit right in. Skill wise, he’s ready to play right away. He was the most ready player in the draft.”
Just a few picks after Toppin, the Orlando Magic used the No. 15 overall pick on Anthony, who played three years of high school hoops at Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood. The 6-foot, 3-inch point guard spent his one college season at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Anthony is the son of NBA veteran and current television basketball analyst Greg Anthony. He grew up in Manhattan and attended elementary school at Poly Prep Country Day School, Dyker Heights. Looking for greater basketball competition in the CHSAA, he enrolled at Archbishop Molloy, given the school’s academic reputation as well.
For three seasons, Anthony started on the Stanners varsity team and took the local Catholic League by storm, leading to Tablet All-Star selections as a sophomore in 2017 and a junior in 2018. He spent his senior year at Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.
“He’s (Anthony) a tremendous athlete and can really shoot the basketball,” said Archbishop Molloy varsity boys’ head coach Mike McCleary. “He’s a very good passer as well. What’s going to make him be successful in the league is how driven he is to become a good player.”
McCleary said Anthony has all the tools necessary to become a great player and a great person. That’s thanks to his dedicated support system at home that has seen him grow each step of the way.
“Watching him (Anthony) grow up to become a responsible man is really the reward we look for,” McCleary said. “We’re happy for him and his family, and we’ll be rooting for him the whole way.”
The NYC basketball community will surely be tuning in when the Knicks play the Magic this season to see a few local standouts continue their dreams, which started right here in Brooklyn and Queens.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.