NEW YORK (AP) — Obi Toppin was lightly regarded when he was a high school player in New York.
He’s coming home as the college player of the year.READ MORE: Wife Of Top Cuomo Aide Shows Support On Social Media For Governor's Latest Sexual Harassment Accuser
The Knicks selected Toppin with the No. 8 pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, bringing the national player of the year back to his hometown.
He struggled to speak when asked during an ESPN interview why it would mean so much to wear a Knicks jersey.
“I’m from New York, that’s why it’s important,” Toppin said. “Me repping my city, it’s amazing.”
Toppin ended a remarkable ride from unheralded prospect to the top of college basketball by leading Dayton to a 29-2 record as a sophomore. He averaged 20 points and shot 63.3% from the field en route to being a unanimous All-America selection.
That would have seemed unimaginable a few years earlier, after he received no Division I scholarship offers after playing only one season of varsity basketball in Ossining, New York.
But Toppin, born in Brooklyn, shot up from 6-foot-2 as a high school junior to his current 6-9.READ MORE: COVID Vaccine: Competitors Johnson & Johnson And Merck & Co. Teaming Up To Increase Supply
“I feel like nothing has came easy for me,” Toppin said. “I went through a lot of things growing up, and I feel like through those struggles and through those bad times that I’ve been through growing up, it’s made me the person and player that I am today.”
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The Knicks made him their first pick under the new leadership of President Leon Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau. They also hold the No. 23 selection after completing a trade with Utah earlier Wednesday.
“He’s an explosive athlete and one of the most dynamic players in college basketball, which earned him the Naismith Player of the Year honors,” Rose said. “Just as importantly, he’s also a high character individual with a tremendous work ethic. We look forward to a bright future with him and are excited to bring a native New Yorker home to the Garden.”
The Knicks added a second player at No. 25 in Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley, voted SEC player of the year by the league’s coaches. The pick was made by Oklahoma City and the trade hadn’t been announced by the time Quickley was drafted, but Wildcats coach John Calipari confirmed the deal in an interview with ESPN.
Calipari’s former top assistant, Kenny Payne, left during the offseason to join Thibodeau’s staff in New York.
Quickley led the Wildcats with 16.1 points per game.MORE NEWS: Celebrity TV Doctor Dr. Oz Helps Rescue Man Who Collapsed At Newark Airport
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