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The Best Names in College Basketball in 2015-16

Jason FranchukCollege Basketball Featured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2017

The Best Names in College Basketball in 2015-16

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    What's in a name exactly? A lot of fun examination in many cases, especially around the eclectic world of college basketball.

    So much diversity exists in the game for American-born players, and of course, there's even more variety with the sport becoming a global one in the last decade. We'll take a look at some of the best names in the 2015-16 season.

    We're not here to kid around, either. We will only "Mock" once, and that's only because we're going to kindly look at Evansville's Egidijus Mockevicius.

    But the producer of this slideshow (with the last name Franchuk) isn't going to poke fun at anyone. Names are sacred things.

    There are, however, many that make us think. Make us go wow. Make us smile, because they're just really cool.

    We'll also tell you (when applicable) a little bit about their origins and ongoing seasons.

    Certainly, some names you'll need to know or do already. Maryland Terrapins freshman Diamond Stone is a gem of a center. Do you wonder how Indiana Hoosiers star Kevin Ferrell became Yogi? Read on to find out.

    There's a case of royalty to know in the Pac-12. We have a Scoochie and a Biggie, too.

    We looked at everyone from Mike Aaman (Wagner) to Johnny Zuppardo (Mississippi State). There are a couple of redshirt guys, too, because we just couldn't resist showcasing them.

    And we wish you Goodluck (as in Okonoboh of UNLV) moving forward.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan Wolverines

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Know the Name

    Abdur-Rahkman grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he actually had a hard time making a name for himself. He was under-recruited, except for an old coaching connection that Michigan Wolverines coach John Beilein had to someone in the area, according to a 2014 story from MLive.com writer Brendan F. Quinn. It had to be pretty cool in late January, when he started against Penn State in Madison Square Garden. Yes, his first name comes from the most famous fighter ever, Muhammad Ali.

     

    Know the Game

    He scored a career-best 25 points at Purdue (in a Jan. 7 loss) on a career-best 10 field goals and 16 attempts. Abdur-Rahkman actually first came to prominence last year, getting time during a tough stretch when Michigan was without starting guards Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.

Scoochie Smith, Dayton Flyers

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    Know the Name

    His actual first name is Dayshon. "As for the nickname, you can credit Smith’s grandfather George Blount, who began calling him 'Scoochie' as a child," wrote Joey Scarborough of the New York Daily News last March during the Dayton Flyers' NCAA tournament run.

    The Bronx-raised Smith said he looked up a definition of scoochie, and it meant to dance or "be annoying." He played the end of last season with some sadness, as Blount passed away in February.

     

    Know the Game

    The junior guard started every game last year, averaging about nine points. Somehow, his foul shooting is considerably worse this year (62 percent compared to 75 a year ago), but his effective field-goal percentage is up to 52 percent, three points better than last year's.

Biggie Minnis, Wright State Raiders

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Know the Name

    His real one is DeShon. How'd he get the nickname? You may be surprised to know the rap star had nothing to do with it.

    “When I was little, I was very small,” the former Rams point guard told the Providence Journal's Kevin McNamara in 2013. “My dad used to always call me Biggie Head because I had a big head on a little body. When I got older, they just shortened it to Biggie and it stuck with me.”

     

    Know the Game

    You'll notice the picture is of Minnis at Rhode Island. He's a senior-year transfer to Wright State who is producing nearly twice as many points per game (7.0) as he did last year with the Rams. He was eligible immediately after graduating from URI last spring. He's been around, starting his career at Texas Tech in 2011-12.

Goodluck Okonoboh, (formerly) UNLV Runnin' Rebels

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    Know the Name

    He's not at UNLV anymore. But we couldn't help but add him, because the story of his name is so amazing. He told the Las Vegas Sun's Taylor Bern in 2013:

    Long story short: When my dad came to America, I was in my mom’s stomach. My mom was nine months pregnant and my dad was a taxi driver at the time. One day for work, he picked up three guys in black hoodies and he knew something was wrong that day.

    He ended up taking them to their destination and when they got there, he figured out it was a dead end. One of the guys for no reason shot my dad in the chest with a .22 caliber gun. And a .22 caliber bullet, when it hits you, it travels all around your body and the bullet slightly pierced his heart. He was in the hospital, it wasn’t looking good.

    The doctors said it would be rare if he makes it. My mom put him on life support for one day, and the next day everything was running fine. And the next week I was born, so he named me Goodluck because not everyone’s lucky enough to be a father.

     

    Know the Game

    He entered the season as the team's top returning rebounder. He left Las Vegas in late November after not feeling comfortable coming off the bench, as he was playing about half of his minutes as he did in the 2014-15 season. The addition of highly touted 7-foot freshman Stephen Zimmerman Jr. didn't help Okonoboh's playing-time cause.

Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr., Michigan State Spartans

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    Know the Name

    "Tum Tum" was given to him for a nickname as a kid. It came from the 1992 movie The Three Ninjas. The youngest of the three ninjas in the film, Tum Tum, was so named because of his appetite. His actual first name, Lourawls, is also his father's—named after the R&B singer from the 1970s.

     

    Know the Game

    He started the final 16 games last year toward the Spartans' somewhat surprising Final Four run, and they were 13-4 overall with him in the first five. He's much more of a distributor and manager than scorer, and his shooting numbers are interesting—10 percent worse from three-point range but almost 10 percent better inside the arc this season. He missed about a month of the season with plantar fasciitis and just recently returned for a couple of minutes against Maryland.

Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville Purple Aces

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    Samantha Baker/Associated Press

    Know the Name

    The big Lithuanian's name is a mouthful. So, Egidijus Mockevicius of the Evansville Purple Aces is
    known by many as "Big Mock," according to Jeremiah Davis of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

     

    Know the Game

    The walking double-double is one of the best "unheard of" players in the country. Consider this: He's right behind Wichita State's well-known duo of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet as the top Missouri Valley Conference player, per KenPom. He is averaging nearly 17 points and 14 rebounds. He's doing this while playing less minutes and taking fewer shots. Shooting 65 percent from the field (compared to about 58 last winter) will allow for that improvement.

Prince Ali, UCLA Bruins

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Know the Name

    It's just a great one. It's perfect for announcers, too, like when he had the huge slam dunk against Kentucky and went from a Prince to a king, so to speak. Pretty cool, too, as he was looked after by two older brothers for a stretch of his life, as noted in this December profile by Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times.

     

    Know the Game

    This is good timing to be talking about the 6'3" freshman. He averages 4.5 points but just had 12 on Valentine's Day in a win at Arizona State, tying his season high. He was a former UConn recruit.

Andrew Andrews, Washington Huskies

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Know the Name

    Surely, you did a double-take at this one. It turns out there's a simple but complicated answer, which Percy Allen of the Seattle Times hit on last December in a profile.

    "At age four, his parents split up and that’s when his aunt Allison took over guardianship. She gave him her maiden name Andrews to foster a cohesive bond between them and her then six-year-old son, Tyler," Allen wrote.

     

    Know the Game

    Andrews is the only senior on a Washington Huskies team that starts four freshmen. He gets to his 20.5-point average (tops in the Pac-12) via the foul line.

    He's sixth-best in the country at drawing fouls (8.1 per 40 minutes) and makes 84 percent of his attempts. Not many guys have taken advantage of the new hands-off defensive rules as much as he has, as he is going to the line about twice as much as last year. Oddly, he shoots slightly worse from inside the arc than outside (37.7 to 38.9).

Four McGlynn, Rhode Island Rams

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Know the Name

    This isn't quite as complicated as George Costanza wanting to name a kid "Seven" in honor of Mickey Mantle. Rhode Island's Four McGlynn is actually Patrick McGlynn IV.

     

    Know the Game

    McGlynn is a 6'2" senior transfer from Towson. His productivity is all over the place. Look at his points in the last four games: 0, 19, 25, 0 against solid Atlantic 10 competition. He's averaging 11.5 points, which is barely under his pace last year (12.0), though he is playing a few more minutes. This is actually school No. III for him after starting at Vermont, before leaving after one season (he had been recruited by Mike Lonergan, who left before his freshman year for George Washington).

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana Hoosiers

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Know the Name

    Guarding Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell Jr. can't be a picnic. But speaking of picnics...it turns out that's how he became Yogi.

    "He earned the nickname 'Yogi' from his mom as a toddler because he had an affinity for picnic baskets like the cartoon character Yogi Bear," wrote Zak Keefer of USA Today in 2013. 

     

    Know the Game

    One of the more popular players on this list doesn't need much introduction. The Indiana Hoosiers stat-stuffer shoots nearly 42 percent from three-point range. He opted to return for his senior year rather than test the NBA waters.

Steven Spieth, Brown Bears

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    Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

    Know the Name

    OK, this is not the most exciting name on this list. But you're saying "Spieth...Spieth...?" Yes, it's the brother of golfer Jordan Spieth. The junior from Dallas could serve as a stunt double, though he is taller with more hair.

     

    Know the Game

    The Spieths can put the ball in the hole in multiple sports. Steven averages 11 points per game and shoots 45 percent from the field. He's been a starter virtually every game in college. Since the end of last year, he has battled with a pair of stress fractures. Meanwhile, Jordan has won a couple of majors.

Basil Smotherman, Purdue Boilermakers

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Know the Name

    You just gotta love this name. And it turns out his foodie name is perfect—he loves to cook and has even filmed his own cooking show.

     

    Know the Game

    We couldn't resist adding him, even though the junior is redshirting. Purdue had so much size (A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, freshman Caleb Swanigan, among others), it just didn't need him. Smotherman averaged 2.7 points last year but should be expected to produce more in 2016-17 and beyond.

Diamond Stone, Maryland Terrapins

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Know the Name

    His dad's name is Bob, but he sure came up with a gem for his son, Diamond.

    "It just sounded good," the elder Stone said, telling Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal that it came down to Trey or Diamond. "A lot of people say it's an effeminate name, and I would just tell them that a diamond is the hardest rock on the planet. You cut other rocks with diamonds. They put diamonds in drills to cut other rocks."

     

    Know the Game

    One of the top freshmen in the country, the center has, uh, polished right before our very eyes this winter. He's averaging 12.8 points and nearly six rebounds per game. His defensive improvement—individually and understanding the team's plan—has allowed coach Mark Turgeon to play him in longer spurts lately. 

Bonus: All the Shaquilles out There

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Know the Name

    Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg wrote a really interesting piece last month on all of the young players of the current generation who have been named after Kobe Bryant.

    Let's not forget that Shaquille O'Neal came before him. There are 10 players this year who have some form of "Shaq" in their names.

     

    Know the Game(s)

    • Shaqquan Aaron, USC: Sitting out after transferring from Louisville.
    • Shaq Calhoun, South Alabama: Averaging 8.3 points in his sophomore year.
    • Shaquille Cleare, Texas: The one-time Maryland player gets spot duty. But at least he's a center—one of only two in this group.
    • Shaquille Doorson, Rutgers: Would-be sophomore center is sitting out this year with a foot injury.
    • Shaq Goodwin, Memphis: Most of us just wish we could do this to earn a technical foul...
    • Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa: Put up 21 points (six above average) in a nice win at SMU on Feb. 10.
    • Shaquille Hines, Texas-Rio Grande Valley: Averages about 14 points for a bad team.
    • Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: The 6'8" senior had 30 points in a blowout loss to New Mexico State last month.
    • Shaquille Morris, Wichita State: Solid bench contributor averaging seven points.
    • Shaq Thomas, Cincinnati: A regular starter, he's been hampered by leg issues lately.

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