Who might be 2020’s late bloomers?

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Who might be 2020’s late bloomers?

On the latest episode of The Upside Podcast, we dug into Dayton’s Obi Toppin and how he went from virtually unrecruited into one of college basketball’s best players. 

Toppin’s ascension includes a number of different variables, all of which were imperative to his development. First and most obviously, there is the physical component, he’s nearly 3 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than he was as a high school senior. He had also reportedly grown 6 inches in the twelve months before his senior year. Being that type of late-bloomer is, in and of itself, virtually unprecedented. 

That wasn’t the only ingredient though. Toppin had raw tools at a young age, but he wasn’t ready to impact a high-level game when he was in high school or even prep school. It was only after both a post-graduate year and academic red-shirt year that is body had a chance to catch-up as he simultaneously turned natural touch into polished skill. 

Finally, he had the right mentality to put it all together, which required diligent hard-work coupled by patience as he didn’t get discouraged by the lack of immediate gratification and kept everything in perspective while continuing to improve for years. 

Put it altogether, and Obi Toppin is almost one of a kind. But is his path one that could be emulated by others, even if their long-term upside isn’t quite as high? The answer is certainly yes and so with that, here’s a look at some local prospects who have the potential to be much different players in a few years than they are right now. 

Jordan Geronimo, St. Paul’s – Geronimo is the obvious answer in the region and one of the better national candidates as well. He has all the physical tools, the innate character to keep developing, and still vast untapped potential. And while he’s already committed to Indiana, the reality is his level of recruitment was based more on his tools and potential coming out of the summer then it was his production or ability to already dominate a high-level game. In short, he may be barely scratching the surface. 

Justin Vander Baan, Whitinsville Christian – Vander Baan could learn a lot from Toppin’s story. There’s no denying his tools – there just aren’t many coordinated 7-footers with hands and touch out there who can change ends of the floor. Like Toppin, he needs to build-up his body, get more physical, and comfortable with contact. He’ll also need time to adjust to a vastly different level of competition. A few years down the road though, if he can put the necessary work in, he should have a real chance. 

Aidan Carpenter, Lee Academy* – There’s no telling exactly when things will click for a prospect. In Carpenter’s case, his talent was recognizable as an underclassman but it was clear his game had gone to new levels within the last year. He had a steady buzz over the spring and the summer, but this fall his game looked to be at another level altogether. He arrived at Siena at mid-year, but will debut next season, and should have a chance to bud into a key player for the Saints.

Reece Brown, Loomis Chaffee – There’s no denying Brown’s physical tools and talent. He’s an extremely high-level athlete with a wiry and elastic frame. He’s also made gradual strides with his skill-set over the last year. While Brown was recruited from virtually all levels of college basketball, his high school career will end before he’s been able to put all the pieces together and live up to his potential…yet. 

Jamon Kemp, Woodstock Academy – Kemp is the son of one of the most explosive and well-known athletes of his generation, Shawn Kemp. Jamon is a predictably high-level athlete but his skill-set and feel for the game are still very much a work in progress. In other words, he doesn’t need time to evolve physically, he needs time to put in the work to develop the rest of his game. 

Felix Kloman, Pingree – He was flying under the radar until Brown became the first D1 school to offer him and subsequently landed his commitment. While Kloman hadn’t yet put it all together, at least against high-level competition, just yet, he has clear tools and ability with terrific perimeter size, a good feel for the game, a budding shooting stroke, and a reportedly strong work ethic. 

Kazell Stewart, Prince Tech – There might not be a better all-around athlete in New England. His explosiveness and ability to play above the rim is virtually unparalleled, but he’s also powerful and equally capable of covering the court. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s anywhere near a complete basketball player yet, but like Brown, it means that if you give him time to develop the rest of his game, he could have a potentially very bright future. 

Brian Stevens, Springfield Commonwealth – He didn’t have a big rep coming out of high school and didn’t play on a sneaker circuit this spring. However, he is skilled with terrific perimeter size and a solid feel for the game. He’s also a good student and reportedly both humble and hard-working. That’s usually a recipe that allows a prospect to continue to improve over the years.