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Dayton’s Toppin wins Wooden Award over Garza

Dayton forward Obi Toppin completed a magical season as the winner of the 2020 John R. Wooden Award, the award’s committee announced Tuesday. Toppin secured the award over Iowa star Luka Garza.

Last week, Toppin won both the Naismith and Associated Press national player of the year awards.

Toppin led Dayton to a 29-2 record during the 2019-20 season, which ended abruptly prior to the NCAA tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic. A projected lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft, Toppin recorded 20.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while connecting on nearly 70% of his shots inside the 3-point line. He made 39% of his shots from beyond the arc.

Toppin is projected to be the No. 9 pick in this summer’s NBA draft, per ESPN’s latest mock draft.

Toppin received the Wooden Award a day after the national championship game would have been played if the pandemic hadn’t canceled the NCAA tournament, but Toppin said he is confident of one thing.

“I definitely feel like our team could’ve made it to the national championship game, just because of what we were so able to do this season and the amount of skills we had on the team,” Toppin said in an interview on SportsCenter. “Everybody bought in to what the coaches were asking, and we were dominating every single game this year. And we would’ve definitely been in the national championship game.”

While Toppin put together one of the nation’s most impressive campaigns, he and Garza battled all season for national honors. Garza was averaging 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds when the NCAA canceled its postseason tournament. Iowa finished 11-9 in conference play and 20-11 overall.

After the announcement, Garza tweeted congratulations to Toppin for an “incredible season.”

Toppin helped Dayton dominate the Atlantic 10. The Flyers became the first team to win the league without a loss (18-0) since George Washington went 16-0 in 2006.

Toppin also became one of the best stories in college basketball. After playing just one year of varsity basketball in high school, he was an academic redshirt in 2017-18. He won Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors in 2018-19 before exploding onto the national scene this season as a sophomore.

Toppin said on SportsCenter that staying the course led to his success.

“I never changed what I did. I always get in the gym, work on my craft, whether that’s getting extra shots up or weights and stuff,” Toppin said. “But I just felt like, with the guys I had around me and the coaches I had around me and the family I had around me, they pushed me every single day to be the person and the player that I am. So I thank them every single day for that.”

Toppin commenced his Wooden Award campaign by recording 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks in a 90-84 overtime loss to Kansas at the Maui Invitational in November.

Toppin is the seventh sophomore to win this award and the first since Trey Burke in 2013.

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