Photo: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Jacob Toppin is used to being asked about his brother. Last year, Obi Toppin was consensus National Player of the Year after a breakout sophomore season at Dayton and is projected to be a top five pick in next month’s NBA Draft. When Jacob decided to transfer to Kentucky from Rhode Island back in April, he knew the Obi questions were coming.
“My brother is brought up all the time,” Toppin told reports on Zoom today. “I’m always hearing his name when I’m talking to somebody.”
To his credit, Jacob doesn’t seem to mind; in fact, he said Obi helped him prepare for today’s Zoom, his first media opportunity as a Kentucky Wildcat.
“Me and my brother probably have the strongest relationship out of everyone. Nobody is going to break our bond. Like, our bond is just so tight. I was actually on the phone with him earlier today talking about how I have an interview and he was actually like asking me questions and stuff. So, we’re always there helping each other out and stuff. We talk every day. We’re always checking up. He’s always like telling me and giving me inspirational quotes and all of these things telling me how I can better myself as a human being and as a player. So, we definitely love each other the most and we’re always helping each other every day.”
What kind of questions did Obi ask Jacob in the prep session?
“Well, some of the questions you guys asked he kind of asked those questions. I don’t know how he knew that you guys were going to ask these questions, but he was just going with the flow and I was just answering them. It was actually pretty funny because these are the questions that you guys are really asking and he was asking me the same questions.”
An obvious one is how the brothers compare on the court. Both are 6’9″, but Obi has a good 25 pounds on Jacob, whose official weight is 194. At Dayton, Obi did it all, from playing inside to hitting threes and driving the lane; Jacob shares that versatility, but knows he has to bulk up if he wants to have the same success inside.
“The similarities in our game, we’re very athletic and long so we use that to our advantage. We’re very energetic. We just like to be all over the place. We’re hustle players. We can shoot. We can drive. We can score anyway we can. He’s just a lot bigger than me and that’s what I’m trying to get to so that’s the only difference we have. He plays more inside than me but I play inside too.”
Even though Toppin is now cleared to play this season, he and the Kentucky staff are still focused on a longterm plan for his time in Lexington, with priority No. 1 being adding muscle to that long, lanky frame.
“I’ve been talking with our strength coach, Coach Rob (Harris). We’re going to come up with a plan where I can still lift and gain that weight and gain that muscle that I would in the offseason without playing while playing. So, we’re definitely going to figure something out because obviously it shows that I need to gain weight and muscle, so we’ll figure something out.”
A video of Jacob dunking over Obi made the rounds this summer, giving Kentucky fans a taste of what’s to come. Toppin’s last recorded vertical was 39 inches; he’s yet to have it measured at Kentucky, but can’t wait to see how it’s improved given his new regimen.
“No, I’m still waiting for that because I want to see how high I can actually jump. I want to see my vertical because I can jump very high.”
“The stories are not exaggerated,” Toppin said of his leaping ability. “I surprise myself sometimes when I jump because I’m jumping higher than I usually jump. I’m looking inside the rim every time I jump. I don’t know to explain it. Everybody in my family can jump. My dad can still dunk it. He’s 40 years old, so yeah, it’s just in our genes. It’s genetics.”
Toppin’s father is a well-known streetball player in Brooklyn who goes by the nickname “Dunkers Delight.” Clearly, he passed the jumping trait on to his sons, and even though Obi’s sophomore year at Dayton was basically a highlight reel of moster dunks, Jacob claims he’s the best dunker in the family.
“I would say me. My brother dunks the ball a lot harder, but I have a lot more tricks up my sleeve. I can do a lot more things. So yeah, it’s probably me.”
In addition to flashier dunks, what does Jacob’s game have that Obi’s doesn’t?
“I definitely think the game more. My IQ is very high. I could play more of the two, three (positions) and I don’t think that he can. I definitely say that something I’d take from him is his post moves. His post moves are very good and he just knows how to read post play. He could pass out of the post and he can just play the post very well. So, I think that if I got better at that then I would be a great player.”