The revolving door continues to spin in the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team’s busy off-season.
The latest round of news came over the course of the last week, when top target Tres Berry announced a verbal commitment on Friday, followed closely by freshman Jacob Toppin announcing Monday via his Instagram account that he will be entering the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Berry’s commitment brought URI’s incoming class to six and helps solidify the team’s future backcourt. Berry chose the Rams over reported offers from the likes of Auburn, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard is a native of Cleveland, Tennessee and prepped at Scotland Performance Institute in Pennsylvania. He was teammates with former URI commit Abou Ousmane, who backed off his pledge to the Rams last week and has since committed to North Texas, but that didn’t change Berry’s destination.
Toppin is the third Ram since the end of the season to announce his intention to transfer. Three transfers from elsewhere are coming the other way and are set to join the Rams. Berry, Ishmael Leggett and Elijah Wood are the high school pledges in the class.
URI was slated to bring six players back from last year’s squad. With Toppin joining Tyrese Martin and Mekhi Long in departing, that number is down to just three in Fatts Russell, Jermaine Harris and Antwan Walker. And Russell has put his name into the NBA draft, though he remains eligible to return. With those three, two junior-college transfers who sat out last year in Jeremy Sheppard and D.J. Johnson, and the incoming players, URI has 11 penciled in for the 2020-21 roster, leaving two open scholarships.
URI fans hoped Toppin would be a key part of the future. The 6-foot-8, 190-pounder averaged 5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while playing 18.6 minutes a game as a key part of the rotation. He showcased tantalizing potential with his athletic dunks, offering glimpses of a bright future. It was only natural for URI supporters to dream on the trajectory followed by his older brother Obi, who morphed into the National Player of the Year and a potential lottery pick at Dayton. While that ceiling would be tough for anyone to reach, Jacob Toppin certainly profiled as a high-potential player.
“I want to start off by thanking the entire URI family,” Toppin wrote on Instagram. “I also want to thank the coaching staff and players. This past year has been a great learning experience. After thoroughly thinking things through, I’ve decided that it is best for me to enter my name in the portal. This decision has nothing to do with anyone on the coaching staff. I feel moving forward, this is what is best for me. I wish everyone nothing but the best moving forward. Love you Rhody Nation.”
With the latest departure factored in, URI is now losing 65 percent of its scoring from a year ago. Jeff Dowtin and Cyril Langevine are graduating. Martin, who averaged 13.4 points per game, is transferring to UConn. Long and his 3.5 points per game are heading to Old Dominion.
URI has now seen five players transfer from this past season’s opening night roster. Sophomore Dana Tate and freshman Gregory Hammond announced plans to transfer in December, with Tate ending up at Siena and Hammond joining UMass-Lowell.
The Rams have also benefited from college basketball’s seemingly ever-expanding transfer market. Maryland’s Makhi and Makhell Mitchell are slated to join the Rams, along with Charlotte’s Malik Martin.
The transfers in and out will be keeping a close eye on a possible NCAA rule change that would allow players to move schools without sitting out a season, which is the current arrangement. A vote on the proposal is expected sometime this off-season. URI would get a big boost if the rule change passes and takes effect immediately, as the Mitchells and Martin sit in limbo.