On Friday in Hidalgo, Texas, there will be a bit of a fraternal reunion for the Topperts of Albuquerque.
Cody Toppert, who turns 33 in January, is a first-year assistant coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the the NBA Development League . This comes after spending two years as the director of basketball development and coach for ELEV8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Fla.
Chad Toppert, a 30-year-old former Lobo sharpshooter, was drafted in the second round by the NBA D-League’s Reno Bighorns in October after spending the last five years playing professional basketball in Europe.
Friday, the Bighorns visit Rio Grande Valley for the first of five scheduled games between the teams this season, and the two brothers will be on opposing sides.
“It’s going to be a real unique experience,” Chad Toppert said.
Basketball runs in the Toppert family as Cody and Chad’s father, Bob, and mother, Linda, played for the Lobos.
“We had a lot of backyard games and with everybody in the family having played Division I. Nobody wanted to lose,” Bob Toppert said. “Linda would have Cody and I’d take Chad and we’d play two-on-two.”
The Toppert boys have differing memories of those backyard games.
“We weren’t the type who battled it out in the backyard for dominance over each other,” Cody said. “We were more the type that wanted to team up against some other schmucks and take them down.”
However, Chad said: “Growing up we would battle it out with each other. We got into a few fights here and there like most brothers. It was really competitive. He helped make me into the player I am today and it helped him too.”
Allow Dad to settle it: ‘They always competed at a high level and always worked out together to help each other,” Bob Toppert said. “There was never any negative stuff.”
Cody Toppert played at Cornell University after his time at Academy. He played eight professional seasons, most overseas, and won a D-League championship with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds in 2006. After back problems ended his playing career in 2012, he began training players in the Dallas area before moving on to Florida. At ELEV8, he worked with many NBA players, including Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart, and gained a reputation as one the top developers of players in the world.
But his heart was always set on coaching. And now Cody Toppert is getting his first chance in the D-League.
“I couldn’t be more excited to take the next step in my career,” Cody said. “I obviously had a great opportunity at ELEV8 but I always wanted to be with an organization.
“The common denominator is development. There’s a lot of similarities. It’s just at a different level. But basketball is basketball no matter what level it is. The main difference is now it’s all basketball, all the time. Basketball is in my blood so it’s really a dream come true.”
Chad Toppert, a 6-foot-6 guard, was one of the top 3-point shooters in the Mountain West while playing with the Lobos. After graduating, he played the 2009-2010 season in the D-League with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. He last played in Germany but is looking for one last chance to fulfill his NBA dreams with Reno, which is an affiliate of the Sacramento Kings.
“I still have hopes on reaching the NBA and I feel like I’m better than I’ve ever been,” Chad Toppert said. “I feel like it’s now or never for reaching the NBA. Hopefully I get a call-up. If not I’m probably heading back overseas.”
As for Friday, “I’m going to be pretty motivated for that game,” Chad Toppert said. “Hopefully they won’t guard me too tight. My parents might be a little mad at Cody if they don’t leave me a few open shots.”
Cody, who trained Chad, said he will feel mixed emotions.
“I’ve always been rooting for his success and he’s always been rooting for my success,” Cody said. “So, it’ll be different. I know he’s going to have a successful season and hopefully he plays well in every game except when he plays RGV.”
Bob and Linda made the trek to Hidalgo, a border town northwest of Brownsville some 950 miles southeast of Albuquerque, to see Cody’s first two games in mid-November. They also have plans to visit Reno to watch Chad in January. But they won’t be able to be in attendance Friday. Still, the parents watch each of their sons’ games online – the NBADL streams all of its games on YouTube – and are especially looking forward to the NBA D-League’s Toppert Bowl I.
“It’s an exciting time but it’s difficult on the parents,” Bob Toppert said.
“The kids know we’re with them. I told Chad to go out and get 20 (points) and I told Cody to go out and beat Chad.”