For more than two decades, On the Ball & Off the Wall has sought out the strangest names in college basketball each year, and they are legion. Whether it is a result of mothers doing too many drugs during the free society of the ’60s and ’70s, or simply receiving too many meds while giving birth, we end up with some very weird handles for these young men 20 years later.
This annual event is called the Name Game, based on Shirley Ellis’s legendary song, and we have finally come up with a name that does the lyrics proud — Hassan Fofana of Maryland. Try it: "Bonana fanna fofana, Mee my mofana, fee fie Fofana, Fofana!" (Okay, we’ve taken some liberties, oldies junkies. But you get the drift.)
Over time, we have selected some real Name of the Year winners whose monikers just sing off the tongue, or conjure up wonderful images: Napoleon Lightning, Alphonso Goldwire, God Shammgod, Fennis Dembo, Rasheed Brokenborough, Xavier Whipple (still in uniform), Paris London, and a man to walk the moors with, Baskerville Holmes. And we must always salute the only brother act to win the Name of the Year, the delightful Scientific and Majestic Mapp. Yes, it’s true. Imagine Bill Russell and Madame Curie in a tryst.
This year one team gets plaudits, notably Tennessee’s terrific trio of Pee-Wee Gash, Scooter McFadgon, and Major Wingate. We have set the standard very high, as with Sterling Ledbetter of Maryland, and Silver Laku from Western Michigan. There are some real jewels, as Ohio’s Diamond Gladney might point out. While we may not be politically correct, we are anatomically on the beam with Taj Finger of Stanford and DeMontae Foots from Brescia in the NAIA. For sheer loyalty to the team, we have Chauncey Duke, playing for the Duquesne Dukes this year. We have also looked to the future by naming a few young high school stars to keep an eye on. It is extremely doubtful, though, that any player at that level could eclipse our all-time high school name, Elvis Old Bull, from the wilds of Montana, which nonetheless received radio and TV reception of the King.
We are making a huge departure in 2004 by including the best foreign names. This is due to a couple of factors, as well as a tip of the local hat to URI’s crowd favorite, Marcel Momplaisir. First, we are indeed becoming a global village, and we would like to encourage this diversity. (Although we think it would be wise for Jihad Muhammad of Cincinnati to keep a pretty low profile at away games.) The other is how the skill of American parents in spelling names is so atrocious that it appears every child was left behind in this generation. These contorted Scrabble throwaways go way beyond eubonics or illiteracy, looking like something that fell out of a chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses. They can match any name from another country, since many appear to have been hatched on a faraway planet. But these international standouts offer a bit of panache, with the representation of British prime ministers in the persons of Oregon’s Chamberlain Oguchi and Churchill Odia of Xavier. And a tip of the Spanish patriotic hat to Florentino Valencia, who chose to attend Toledo. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Lock and load, kiddies:
Chevon Troutman, Pitt
Darshan Luckey, St. Francis (Pennsylvania)
Xavier Whipple, LSU
Dante Stiggers, Southern Mississippi
Leemire Goldwire, Charlotte
Odartey Blankson, UNLV
Tyreek Byard, Temple
Tank Beavers, Memphis
Stetson Hairston, Southern Illinois
Zabian Dowdell, Virginia Tech
Rajon Rondo, Virginia
Nate Funk, Creighton
Drew Crank, Richmond
Jamar Nutter, Seton Hall
Englebert Cherrington, TCU
Levi Stukes, Georgia
Kwaban Buckles, Lee
International All Stars
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, George Washington
Longar Longar, Oklahoma
Boubacar Coly, Xavier
Simplice Njoya, Memphis
Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw, Georgetown
Idong Ibok, Michigan State
Guilliame Yango, Pacific
Okechukwu Mbanugo, Santa Clara
Ari Zandman Zeman, Northern Colorado
High School Up-and-Comers
Dante Christmas, Lutheran (Philadelphia)
Bamba Fall, Oak Hill, VA
Octavious Spann, Banneker (Georgia)
Brady Morningstar, Free State (Kansas)
Booker Woodfox, Lewisville (Texas)
Oh, the Name of the Year, that’s right. Well, how about a long-time runner-up who has seen first team colleague, Xavier Whipple, already take the title: Chevon Troutman of Pitt?
Okay, time to go fishin’.
Issue Date: December 17 - 23, 2004
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