It may be June, but one thing is evident: Jacob Toppin will be the veteran leader Kentucky missed out on last year.
One of the many problems Kentucky suffered from last year was a lack of leadership. Sure, Keion Brooks was there for his sophomore season, but by the time Brooks got to hit the floor, Kentucky was already in a hole with their 3-6 record heading into the middle of January.
As the season went on the Wildcats had a hard time finding that one ‘go-to’ guy, or the one guy who would settle a team down until Davion Mintz started popping up in late February. By that time, however, Kentucky’s season was all but gone.
Jacob Toppin also started to turn it on down the stretch last season. After Kentucky’s road win against Vanderbilt in February, Coach Cal started to recognize Toppin’s production–dubbing him as “found money” and a “nice bit of change.”
“Instead of doing what I want to do, what does this team need me to do? Jacob went in, looked good. We were able to put him on the point guard, which meant we could switch him to the big guy.
“… Jacob, I wouldn’t have subbed him at all if he could’ve lasted in the game. He was playing too well. He came up with the last rebound that won the game, correct?”
Now returning for his second year in Lexington, Toppin’s development is clear. He is turning into a natural-born leader, something that Coach Cal and the staff hopped for when they took a flier on Toppin after seeing how his older brother developed at Dayton.
And these camps have been indicative of that.
One of the clearest observations is that Jacob Toppin is not only a fan favorite but a player favorite, as well. The way he has interacted with his teammates over the past two weeks has been remarkable, and the continuity is evident. From all his appearances on Kentucky’s basketball mic’d up segments, to the small pick-up games and everything in between, Toppin just fits the part as a leader.
WE'D LIKE TO REPORT A MURDER: Jacob Toppin on all the kids at camp 😂
— BBN Tonight (@BBNTonight) June 11, 2021
For the last month @Jtoppin0 put in work for two hours every day we worked out. Footwork, off the dribble, catch&shoot. You name it. We did it. One of the hardest working dudes I’ve gotten to work with and a great person. Thank you to @roni_toppin for trusting me with your boy! pic.twitter.com/Nuf1irSzMB
— David Zenon (@DaveZenon) May 28, 2021
And his game will show his growth too.
“I’m excited for it,” Toppin said about the possibility of a breakout season in 2021. “I like a challenge, there’s no pressure. To me, myself, I feel like I’m going to have a breakout year. I’ve been working, I’m putting in the work. I’m building my confidence shooting the ball, dribbling, playing lower, I’m definitely excited to see what’s going to happen.”
His confidence is something that has clearly come across the last two weeks, he’s genuinely excited being around the fresh faces of the 2021 basketball team and Toppin himself notices how well they mesh together.
If Toppin can be the vocal leader he has been at camp, his production on the floor will translate into what could be a special season for him. Not to mention his utilization will go through the roof with the way Kentucky plans to space the floor next season.
A veteran leader is something the BBN always wants and truthfully something the best Calipari teams always have. Guys like Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, the Harrison Twins, P.J. Washington, Immanuel Quickley are all guys who come to mind when I think of Toppin’s impact for next year.
Watch out for Jacob Toppin in 2021 folks, he will be absolutely vital.