Boys basketball: Sam Toporski is Andrean’s heart and soul
By Tommy Williams Post-Tribune correspondent March 5, 2013 9:30PM
Andrean senior Sam Toporski puts up a layup as Bowman Academy junior Arthur Haggard Jr. looks on during the first half Saturday, Dec 1, 2012, at Andrean High School in Merrillville. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 7, 2013 1:29PM
MERRILLVILLE — According to Andrean coach Carson Cunningham, you won’t find a nicer young man to work with than 59er guard Sam Toporski.
“He gets along with everybody,” Cunningham said. “We’ve never had an attitude problem out of him and he gets along with kids very well.
“I know my kids are big fans of his because he takes the time to see how they’re doing. He’s a really kind hearted person.”
You might get a fair amount of disagreement from opposing guards who’ve had to guard the 6-4 senior, especially in key situations with the game on the line.
Kind-hearted? Yeah, right. Cold-blooded would be a more accurate description.
“He has hit some gargantuan threes throughout his career,” Cunningham said. “And he rebounds well and brings some good energy.”
In fact, Toporski’s importance to the 59ers is something he had to grow into.
“It was really tough for me my freshman year,” said Toporski, who was four inches shorter then. “I was pretty much at the bottom and I was looking up at the guys who were on varsity and JV. It was difficult for me but we’ve come a long way.”
But even then, there was one thing Toporski never had a confidence problem with: his outside shooting. During that awkward freshman period, Toporski said he worked on his outside shot whether it was in the gym or playing AAU ball during the summer.
Fast forward to this, his senior season, and his confidence (not to mention his height) has skyrocketed.
“When I was a freshman, I wondered if I would ever play varsity and now I’m a starter which is astonishing for me,” Toporski said.
Astonishing for him, not so favorable for Andrean opponents.
“He’s a confident shooter,” Cunningham said. “He has a knack for knocking the apple down.”
Indianapolis Northwest found that out the hard way in a game earlier this season. Andrean found themselves down by 10 in the third quarter when Toporski went on a 3-point shooting binge. He would hit four in the second half with three coming in the final four minutes.
“They were just flying at him, but he still hit them,” Cunningham said.
Andrean left the state’s capital with a 77-74 win.
The 59ers wouldn’t be so fortunate in their Feb. 2 meeting at Penn. They lost 66-57, but Toporski kept things interesting with four more 3-pointers in the second half.
And then there was that late fourth quarter 3-pointer he hit nailed against Munster that Toporski said was “right along the volleyball line” which translates to about five feet behind the 3-point line.
The shot kept things interesting before the Mustangs hung on for the win.
“He just catches a wave and when he does that we just let him ride it and see what happens,” Cunningham said.
It’s a wave the 59ers hope will continue as they go for their first regional title since 2000. In the way, for starters, is a Lew Wallace team they defeated earlier this season (Nick Davidson had 26 and Skyler Moss added 19 in a 78-65 win).
“We need to improve our turnover ratio because we had a lot of turnovers late in the game against them,” Toporski said.
Then again, some turnovers are better than others, with the turnover in Toporski’s career from his beginnings as a not so tall or confident freshman to a huge key to Andrean’s run for a possible state title.
“My mentality about basketball has improved from my freshman year,” Toporski said. “Basketball is my love, so I’m proud of where I come from my freshman year.”