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Knicks focus on fast-rising Brooklynite Obi Toppin in NBA Draft

Obi Toppin of the Dayton Flyers reacts after

Obi Toppin of the Dayton Flyers reacts after a play in the game against the Duquesne Dukes during the second half at UD Arena on Feb. 22 in Dayton, Ohio. Credit: Getty Images/Justin Casterline

Obi Toppin was once a high school prospect without a Division I offer, heading instead for a post-graduate year at Mt. Zion Prep, where he jumped at a chance to play for the University of Dayton. Two years later the Brooklyn native now finds himself as one of the top prospects in next week’s NBA Draft.

His stock has risen so much after two seasons with the Flyers, including a sophomore season in which he was named the National College Player of the Year, he likely won’t last to the No. 8 pick where the hometown Knicks are one of four teams to put him through a predraft workout.

The 6-9 Toppin has worked out for only four teams including the Knicks, but the other three are picking ahead of the Knicks - the Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently hold the No. 1 pick, the Hornets at No. 3 and the Cavaliers at No. 5. Teams are allowed to work out only 10 players and the Knicks, with three picks among the top 38 spots, might have to be more cautious than most in using their opportunities. But with the possibility of trading up more likely than Toppin falling to them, the team opted to put him under the microscope.

"I’ve spoken with the Knicks," Toppin said in a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon. "It went very well. They have a great organization. It would be great to go home. But there’s a lot of teams that are in front of them that would be great, too. I’ve spoken with a number of teams, waiting for the day to get drafted."

In a draft that is being called weak at the top with no sure No. 1 pick, Toppin is being considered in that spot because he comes with few question marks. He proved what he could do, averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He is 22 years old - having spent the season of prep school and then redshirting his first year at Dayton before playing two seasons.

He grew up in Brooklyn where his father, Obadiah, was a streetball legend, playing for the New York Gauchos and the Brooklyn Kings of the United States Basketball League. The family moved to Florida and then Toppin returned to New York, playing a season at Ossining High School. As he spoke Wednesday, both his mother, Roni, and his father, were on the Zoom call, too, watching how far he had come.

Toppin, who signed with CAA after Leon Rose departed to take over as Knicks' president, has spent much of the summer working out in South Jersey where he has been joined for workouts by Knicks’ swingman Kevin Knox and Mavericks’ point guard Jalen Brunson. While he is uncertain where he will wind up on draft day he was hoping that he would land with a team that will help him achieve his ambitious goals.

"I feel like I would love to get picked at a place that’s best fit me and best fit people around me," Toppin said. "Going to a place where people are going to want to help me develop and get better and make sure I’m going to be great one day, be a Hall of Famer, be Player of the Year, MVP. All these things. I feel like going to a team that’s going to work on me and develop me to be a great player is where I want to go, whether that’s No. 1 or the bottom of the draft. I feel like where I want to go is a team that’s going to prepare me to be great."

Greer added to scouting staff. The Knicks have added Larry Greer to the staff as an advance scout. He worked with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota and joins his brother, Andy, on the staff. The hire was first reported by The Athletic.

Ivey joins Nets staff. Former Knicks assistant coach Royal Ivey has been added to the Nets’ coaching staff under new head coach Steve Nash, the club announced on Wednesday. Ivey is a Harlem native who attended Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens before going to college at Texas and eventually playing in the NBA with the Hawks, Bucks, 76ers and Thunder.

Ivey served as an assistant with the Thunder from 2016-18 and then joined the Knicks for the past two seasons under former coach David Fizdale. Ivey has a relationship with Nets superstar Kevin Durant, who also played for Texas and is godfather to Ivey’s daughter, Lyric Ella. Ivey and Durant were teammates with the Thunder.

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