NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The draft gods may not have given the Knicks the top pick, but they got the top player.
Obi Toppin won the Naismith College Player of the Year award at the University of Dayton. He was projected to be a Top-5 pick in the NBA Draft. The Knicks got him at No. 8 on Wednesday night.
There was a reason the 6-foot-9 power forward was so overwhelmed after being selected. He will be playing in his hometown. Toppin grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn and played an hour north at Ossining High School in Westchester County, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported Thursday.
“Coming back home to New York is a blessing. Playing in front of all my family and friends and fans here is a blessing. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m glad I landed where I landed,” Toppin said.
Toppin, who averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebound per game last season at Dayton, wasn’t highly recruited out of high school because he was a late bloomer. He couldn’t dunk until his senior year at Ossining, but he’s now known for dunks that energize a team, an arena, and a fanbase. But analysts claimed he was too one dimensional. In fact, only four NBA teams worked him out before the draft.
It wasn’t the first time he was undervalued.
“I feel like nothing has come easy for me. I went through a lot of things growing up. Those struggles and bad times I went through have made me the person and player I am today,” Toppin said.
The Knicks have missed the playoffs seven straight season, but now have an emerging young core.
“New York has been down a couple years and I feel like with the guys they have now and myself added to that I feel like we’re going to win a lot of games there, and we’re going to put New York back on the map, for sure,” Toppin said.
Some Knicks fans, however, might be saying Obi Wan, you’re our only hope.