Having completed an incredible four-year basketball career at Saint Ignatius High School, Chase Toppin is destined for more great things in college.
And the best part? Toppin's family, friends, and fans can continue to watch him dazzle on the court.
Toppin has committed to Lake Erie College in Painesville on a basketball scholarship.
The Cleveland Heights native announced his decision on Monday, following a long recruiting process that saw a plethora of interested colleges come knocking on his door. Throughout the lengthy process, the Storm were a major presence, showing consistent interest in the star point guard. That proved to be a big factor in Toppin's decision.
"It was the best fit for me," Toppin said. "Some schools had better records or other things, but I do know some guys there. They've been talking to me and looking to recruit me. When I went to visit, I got on the court with them, and they treated me like family. That was very unique."
Toppin turned heads from the day he walked through the doors at Saint Ignatius. The nifty point guard's talent and athleticism have always been obvious.
Toppin proved his skills to the coaching staff right away, impressing enough to earn a spot on the varsity roster as a freshman. That's not an easy thing to do, as only a handful of freshmen have achieved the feat in recent years. But if you're as talented as Toppin, you'll get a shot.
And Toppin took advantage of his chance. During his time on the court, Toppin showcased glimpses of glory. Growing pains are always evident for youngsters, but you couldn't deny his immense potential.
"I'll never forget freshman year, and being one of the few who gets picked up to varsity," Toppin said. "I didn't think I'd get to varsity. I'll always remember it. It's hard to make the team, even on freshman or JV. I was blessed to be on the team."
His work ethic became clear in the offseason, as well. Always working on his game, Toppin improved greatly heading into his sophomore season. He continued to see consistent playing time, forcing his way into the lineup with his stellar moves and passing ability.
Toppin assumed the reins as the guy during his junior season. The point guard showed off amazing moves in driving to the hoop, as well as an otherworldly ability to find the open man.
His skills translated well in Cam Joyce's first season as head coach this past season. The offense ran through Toppin, as the senior powered the Wildcats with his distribution skills and his scoring prowess. The 6'2 guard finished second on the squad with 12.1 points per game.
"His athleticism is special. A lot of guys are athletic, but he uses athleticism to move his body so well," said Joyce. "He has an uncanny ability to finish at the rim. As he floats through the air, he's able to turn and twist his body to get around guys. He's strong and powerful with a great build and very quick burst. After his first step, he's by you."
And beyond scoring in bunches, Toppin showed great skill in exploiting openings in opposing defenses with perfect passes. That's a much-sought-after skill for a point guard.
Toppin topped the team with 5.0 assists per game, adding 1.6 steals per game and 4.2 rebounds per game.
"He sees the floor so well. He's a really good passer," Joyce said. "I encouraged him during the year to shoot more, but he always wanted to find his teammates. He has a great ability to do that, and many kids today do not have that ability. An example of that occurred during the District Semifinal. He skied over a couple of 6'5, 6'6 guys to grab a rebound, saw Danny Nunez open, and threw a pass down the court for an open three. Not a lot of guards can get over a 6'5 forward for a rebound and throw a pass over athletic defenders. He made a lot of plays like that."
Toppin also thrived on Joyce's coaching.
"Coach Cam taught me to be a way better player," Toppin said. "He helped me to better understand the game, and he helped me skills-wise. I improved skill-wise, and he got me to be the player I am today. I'm a much better player thanks to him."
Toppin also particularly enjoyed the trip to Miami for the Belen Jesuit Showcase.
"We bonded and came together as a team," Toppin said. "It was great competition down there. Being able to spend every day with those guys was awesome. I'll never forget that trip."
Beyond leading the Wildcats on the court, Toppin played a huge role as team captain.
On and off the court, Toppin displayed both vocal and non-vocal leadership. He showed the younger guys how to work hard, both in word and deed.
"We leaned on him a lot, as a team, and as a coaching staff," Coach Cam said. "He welcomed me with open arms. He could have easily said 'I'm gonna do my own thing,' but he did everything we asked. He was more of a vocal leader than he's ever been. We went as Chase Toppin went. He helped us to some great wins, and led the younger guys. He left the program in great shape. I told him after the season, 'You have nothing to hang your head about. You had a great year. You had some downs, but you had a lot of ups. I'll always be thankful for what you did for this team.'"
Examples of Toppin's leadership abound, particularly off the court.
Toppin played the role of team DJ, at home and on the road. The senior selected the music for every home game and every road trip. He also spoke plenty as Chapel Talks. After his portion, Father Paul Shelton, S.J. often handed the mic off to Chase, as the senior won several Magis Athlete of the Week awards. The previous winner of the award talks about the week's new winner, handing off the Zion Williamson jersey. Toppin always filled his speeches with jokes, making everyone laugh. His teammates always looked forward to hearing him speak.
"Off the court, sometimes he comes across as reserved and quiet, but he has great jokes and keeps the mood light," said Joyce. "He always had some jokes. He's a fun kid, and we enjoy being around him. I'm excited for him. I'll always value our relationship – we can talk about anything, on or off the court. He's a great kid, we'll miss him on and off the court. He'll do great things at Lake Erie."
The Storm will be happy to have Toppin, to be sure. After a 14-15 campaign in 2019-20, the prominent Division II program will graduate five seniors, including three guards. Head Coach Kyle Conley will likely utilize him right away.
"Chase will be a great player at the D2 level. He'll play for 4 years, maybe as a starter," said Joyce. "I see him playing and contributing as a freshman right away. He'll put the work in to get stronger and to improve his game. He's already an unbelievable passer. He'll have a great career."
Academically, Toppin plans on majoring in sports management. A significant advantage he saw at Lake Erie College is the personal tutor assigned to each player. As Toppin mentioned, college will be harder than high school, so having a support system in place will help.
The campus also appealed to Toppin. A self-proclaimed "nature guy," Toppin enjoys Lake Erie College's beautiful campus.
Before he heads to Painesville to write the next chapter of his story, Toppin has people he wants to thank.
"I want to thank my parents first," Toppin said. "Shoutout to Coach Becker, took a chance on me during freshman year. I want to thank to our current coaching staff, and not just Coach Cam. It was hard for them to transition I'm sure, but a huge thank you to them for helping me to improve and have a great senior season. And thank you to my teammates. They made me a better player, teammate, and leader. Every game was a battle, and we always had each other's backs. It was a brotherhood with them, and that team will always be very special to me."