Alex Reilly had a front-row seat to the Obi Toppin show the last two seasons, except during games. Most of the time, he watched from high above the court, filming the Dayton Flyers so the coaches could watch later.
As a senior student manager this season, Reilly saw Toppin transform from one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 Conference into one of the best players in the nation — and one of the best in Dayton history. Nothing ever got to Toppin: not the hype, not the headlines, not the cliched chants of “Overrated” from opposing fan bases.
Toppin rose above the noise to deliver a performance for the ages in 29 games, and that was why he was the only player in the country to be named a unanimous first-team All-American by the Associated Press on Friday.
“I though he handled it extremely well,” Reilly said. “Our staff did their part to help him out as much as they could to make sure he was pointed in the right direction, doing all the right things, saying the right things, but at the end of the day, Obi’s just Obi. He wants to hoop. He wants to make his family proud. He wants to make his university and his teammates proud, and he did that day in and day out. That’s just a testament to him. He’s a guy that still walks into the gym every day with a massive smile on his face, and he’s out there to have fun. Basketball is fun to him. It’s a game. He knows he has a chance to do that for the rest of his career.”
Toppin is the first Dayton player to make the AP first team. He received first-place votes from all 65 voters.
“I feel like everybody just knew what they had to do to help the next person succeed and that’s why I was so successful this year,” Toppin told the AP. “I thank my teammates every single day for that.”
Iowa’s Luka Garza, Marquette’s Markus Howard, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell and Oregon’s Payton Pritchard joined Toppin on the first team. He is the 10th Dayton player to make an All-America team of some sort and the first since 1979. Here’s a look at those 10:
Toppin: The 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. He shot 63.3 percent from the field. His team finished 29-2.
Jim Paxson: The 6-6 senior guard was one of 10 players to make United States Basketball Writers Association All-America team in 1979. Indiana State’s Larry Bird and Michigan State’s Magic Johnson were among the others. Paxson averaged 23.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and shot 52.6 percent from the field. The Flyers finished 19-10 and lost in the second round of the NIT.
Don May: The last Flyer to make an All-America team in two seasons, the 6-4 forward made the USBWA team as a junior in 1967 and the AP and National Association of Basketball Coaches second team as a senior in 1968. He averaged 22.2 points and 16.7 rebounds in the 1966-67 season, leading Dayton to a 25-6 record and a national runner-up finish in the NCAA tournament. A season later, May averaged 23.4 points and 15.0 rebounds as Dayton finished 21-9 and won the NIT championship. May shot 47.5 percent as a junior and 47 percent as a senior.
Henry Finkel: The 6-11 center made the AP and NABC third team as a senior in 1966. He averaged 22.7 points, shooting 62.5 percent from the field, and 12.7 rebounds. Dayton finished 23-6 and reached the regional semifinal round in the NCAA tournament.
Garry Roggenburk: The 6-6 senior forward was named a third-team All-American in 1962 by the Helms Foundation. He averaged 16.0 points and 9.3 rebounds, while shooting 45.9 percent from the floor. Dayton finished 24-6 and won the NIT championship.
Bill Chmielewski: In his only season in college basketball, the 6-10 sophomore center made the Converse All-America second team in 1962. He averaged 15.4 points and 11.4 rebounds, while shooting 44.6 percent from the field.
Bill Uhl: The 7-0 senior center made the Look Magazine first team and the AP and United Press International second teams in 1956. He averaged 18.4 points and 14.7 rebounds and shot 47.6 percent from the field. Dayton reached its highest ranking in the AP poll that season, climbing to No. 2. It finished 25-4 and lost to Louisville in the NIT final.
» WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Shauna Green reacts to season’s sad end
John Horan: The 6-8 senior forward made the Converse and UPI third team in 1955. He averaged 18.4 points and 13.3 rebounds. Dayton finished 25-4 and lost the NIT championship game to Duquesne.
Don Meineke: The 6-7 center made Helms and Converse third teams as a junior in 1951, averaging 28.7 points and 15.7 rebounds. A season later, he made the AP, Helms and Look Magazine second teams. He averaged 21.1 points and 11.8 rebounds. Dayton finished 27-5 in 1950-51 and 28-5 a season later.
Alphonse Schumacher: Playing for the program from 1911-13, when UD was known as the St. Mary’s Institute, the 5-10 center led the team to a 24-0 record. There were no All-America awards at that time, but according to the Dayton media guide, the Helms Foundation looked back at records in 1963 to honor players from the early years of college basketball, and Schumacher was one of the players chosen. UD considers him its first All-American.
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.