This Is Plymouth
July 7, 2010
CODY TOPPERT may not make jaw-dropping slam-dunks at the Pavilions next season.
But the new Plymouth Raiders shooting-guard intends to take your breath away with his ability to bury three-pointers.
Raiders were poor from the three-point line last season (shooting only 29 per cent) and, as a result were overly reliant on fast-break points.
BBL champions Newcastle Eagles, meanwhile, converted a league-high 39 per cent of three-pointers last season.
Raiders' new coach Gavin Love immediately addressed that key issue in this summer's transfer market.
Toppert, 27, was his first signing on June 16. British guard Taner Adu and Americans Otis Polk and Brian McKenzie have since followed.
A quick internet search reveals Toppert has a beautiful, high-arcing shooting stroke, similar to Great Britain and former Sheffield Sharks guard Nate Reinking.
If defences give Raiders the freedom of Plymouth from the perimeter next season, Toppert is set to punish them.
In his first interview as a Raiders player, Toppert told Herald Sport: "Shooting is certainly a great strength of mine, but I also pride myself on my mid-range (offensive) game as well as my ability to get to the basket.
"I have a good ability to (draw fouls and) get to the free-throw line, and knock down a great percentage of free-throws.
"My weakness would be dunking! But I am always trying to get better in all facets of the game."
Toppert converted a solid if unspectacular 36 per cent of three-pointers last season for Weissenhorn, in Germany's third-tier league, Pro B.
Toppert has dual American-German nationality and was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, towards the south-west corner of the United States.
The spelling of his surname on his German passport is his original family name, Topper.
He spent the second half of 2009/10 in Pro B after failing to make an impact in Germany's top-flight Bundesliga at Goettingen.
"Sometimes in basketball you come into a situation that just doesn't fit," said Toppert, who made 12 appearances for Goettingen before making 14 for Weissenhorn.
"When you don't get an opportunity to prove yourself it gets frustrating.
"I was in a system (at Goettingen) that did not provide me with an opportunity and, while I loved my team-mates, it was time to move on.
"Wiessenhorn provided me with the opportunity I needed and we outperformed all expectations, coming up from near the bottom of the table to finish sixth."
Toppert graduated from Cornell University in New York in 2005 and will be in his sixth season professionally in 2010/11.
He sat out 2008/09 entirely following the death of his grandparents and impending wedding to his wife, Brittany, who will play football for Plymouth Argyle Ladies next season.
Toppert could have played for Phoenix Hagen in the Bundesliga that season, 'but it was important to do everything the right way. We had a great wedding, the best day of my life, and now we are able to travel together.'
Toppert averaged 18.9 points per game on 40 per cent shooting from the floor overall in Pro B, where Raiders recruited small-forward Terry Horton from last summer.
Horton had talent and showed flashes last season, but ultimately disappointed and is set to play elsewhere in 2010/11.
Toppert measures 6ft 4in, which will give him decent size at the shooting-guard spot in the BBL, and also averaged 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 32 minutes per game at Weissenhorn.
He converted an excellent 83 per cent from the free-throw line and said: "I would describe myself as a scorer, and scoring has been a main role I have had on most of my teams.
"I pride myself in making the extra pass and rebounding well from the guard position.
"I am constantly working on my ball handling and my lateral quickness on defence.
"I think all good players will tell you their game is always evolving.
"At the same time I am always trying to improve my strengths as well."
Toppert added: "I can and have played everywhere from point-guard through to small-forward.
"I feel confident in any of those positions.
"I have primarily been a shooting-guard, but in a lot of systems there is little difference between shooting-guard and small-forward, aside from defensive match-ups and offensive rebounding assignments."
Toppert's indifferent spell at Goettingen is hardly a black mark on his CV.
As Toppert has explained, sometimes players' faces simply don't fit, but Goettingen also finished third last season in the Bundesliga, a stronger league than the BBL, and notably won the EuroChallenge (European basketball's third-tier cup).
Toppert also had spells overseas in New Zealand and Portugal earlier in his career.
Toppert said of his move to the BBL and Raiders: "I chose Plymouth because coach Love has a clear picture of the kind of team he wants and how he wants us to play.
"The style fits with how I think basketball should be played.
"Anytime you have someone who is as passionate about the game as he is, it rubs off on the players.
"All of the good teams I've been on have taken that enthusiasm and translated it into excellent on-court performance.
"From what I have heard, the BBL is an underrated league and is continually helping to raise the level of basketball in England. I think it is exciting to be a part of something continuing to grow in popularity and quality.
"Outside basketball, I did my research into the area and city. I have heard the region is beautiful and that the community is greatly involved with the club and that the people are passionate about Raiders.
"It was important my wife and I found the right situation on and off the court.
"We feel we have found that with Raiders, coach Love and the city of Plymouth.
"It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."