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Kentucky Basketball Player Preview: Jacob Toppin

Could this be the breakout year for Toppin?

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball season is right around the corner for the Kentucky Wildcats as they will look to bring No. 9 back to Lexington in 2022-23.

After a heartbreaking end to the 2021-22 season, several players are back once again for a revenge tour.

One of the key returners is senior forward Jacob Toppin, who is gearing up for Year 3 at Kentucky.

Jacob Toppin

  • Height: 6-9
  • Weight: 205 lbs.
  • Class: Senior
  • Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Position: Forward
  • Recruiting Ranking: Unranked recruit in class of 2019 via 247 Sports Composite.

Oscar Tshiebwe isn’t the only transfer masking a major impact on the Kentucky men’s basketball program. After all, Jacob Toppin began his college career at Rhode Island.

Toppin managed to show potential in limited minutes as a true freshman, then entered the portal in hopes of developing into a star at a bigger program. Kentucky provided him with that opportunity, and after two years, that investment appears ready to pay off in a big way for both parties.

This is the year that many are expecting Toppin, the brother of former Dayton star and current Knicks forward Obi Toppin, to have his breakout year as he is likely to be the starting power forward with Keion Brooks deciding to transfer after last season.

Toppin played in 29 games for the Cats last season, started in 4 of those games, and averaged 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 17.7 minutes per game. I would be shocked if all three of those numbers don’t dramatically increase this season.

During the Cats’ preseason trip to the Bahamas, Toppin got off to a slow start, but it didn’t last long as he showed exactly what we want to see from him this season.

During the 4 games, Toppin averaged 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and led the team in minutes at 24.5 per game.

He was also third on the team in total assists with 10, tied for first with Daimion Collins in blocks with 8, and tied for second with Sahvir Wheeler and Adou Thiero in steals with 7.

However, the number that stands out the most from Toppin’s performance during the Bahamas trip is that he was second in three-point percentage, behind only Chris Livingston (60%), as he shot 53.3% from deep.

Last season, Toppin shot 40% from three but only averaged 0.3 attempts per game. That number will need to go up a lot in 2022-23.

Another good sign for Toppin’s improved shooting is he hit what was effectively the game-winning triple in the Blue-White Game, as his late three put the White Team ahead 68-67 with 35 seconds left.

Since arriving at Kentucky, Toppin has been one of our better defenders whenever he is on the court. I expect that to continue this season and the impact he can make defensively while getting starter minutes should have fans excited about senior year Toppin.

We saw a glimpse of his defensive presence in the Bahamas when he was making a highlight reel of just blocked shots.

Here is what John Calipari had to say about Toppin at the recent SEC Media Days.

“Jacob, we have a machine that’s called the Noah machine in our gym over the top of the baskets. So when guys come in to shoot, it has face recognition, and they get in there and shoot on their own or with a manager, and you count the number of shots that they take.

“So Jacob leads the team — he had 2,800 shots in how many — was it a month or three weeks? What was it? Three weeks? So he had 2,800 shots in three weeks. He’s living in the gym. Every player that I’ve ever coached that lives in the gym had breakthroughs. They had breakthroughs.

“Now we’re trying to get him to more car crash. You know what the car crash is. You drive, you create the car crash. You’re not getting T-boned. You’re T-boning that dude. When he does that, what happens? He plays really good.”

Kentucky has a lot of potential to be a high-powered, high scoring offense this season, but when you consider Toppin’s defensive ability as well as the defense of Wheeler, Livingston, and Cason Wallace, it could be one of Calipari’s best defensive teams.

Toppin is going to have a much bigger role and not have to share playing time. It will be interesting to see what he does with this massive opportunity this season.

The Cats’ first game of the regular season will be Monday, November 7th as they take on Howard in Rupp Arena.

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