The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

The stories behind some of the NCAA tournament’s most unusual names

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Vermont's Four McGlynn (AP)

Just like buzzer-beaters and busted brackets, unusual names are one of the staples of every NCAA tournament.

There was Virginia's Majestic Mapp. There was Providence's God Shammgod. And who could forget Siena's Just-in'love Smith?

The absence of Saint John's from this year's NCAA tournament deprived us of the chance to watch God'sgift Achiuwa and Sir'Dominic Pointer this March, but there's still no shortage of memorable names in the field of 68. Here are some of the best names in this year's NCAA tournament and the stories behind how they were chosen:

Four McGlynn, G, Vermont

When Patrick and Robyn McGlynn named their first-born son Patrick IV, the newborn's uncle quickly intervened with a nickname.

He began calling his baby nephew "Four" since the future Vermont guard was the fourth in the family with the same name. The nickname spread quickly and soon became entrenched as a McGlynn's first name.

"Ever since I was a baby, I've been called Four," McGlynn said. "I actually think it's pretty cool. I don't know anybody else that has that name, which is awesome."

The only time McGlynn's name became a nuisance was on the first day of school each year when teachers would take attendance and inevitably ask if Patrick McGlynn was there. McGlynn always had to ask to be called Four and share the explanation behind his unusual nickname.

"I had a teacher in middle school who refused to call me Four because she thought that I was lying about why I wanted to be called Four," McGlynn said. "She called me Patrick the entire year."

McGlynn has become known for more than just his name at Vermont thanks to a brilliant freshman season. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 12 points per game and shot 38.7 percent from behind the arc, propelling the Catamounts to a 23-win season and a spot in Wednesday night's First Four game against Lamar.

Bak Bak, F, Cal

Having the same first and last name got Sudanese-born Bak Bak a lot of attention when he first arrived in the U.S. during high school

"At home, it's just normal," Bak said with a chuckle. "But when I came here, lots of people were surprised my first and last name were 'Bak.' They all wanted to know why I have the same first and last name."

Bak understands why people he meets are curious, but he insists the story behind his name is not all that unusual.

His name is a common one in his family and it means "morning" in his native language. Bak's grandfather asked Bak's father to name his newborn son "Bak," so that's how the Cal forward got it.

That story, of course, begs the question whether Bak would consider naming his own son "Bak" when he has kids of his own someday.

"I might," he said. "It's a family name."

Vander Blue, G, Marquette

A harrowing ride to the hospital served as the inspiration behind Marquette sophomore Vander Blue's unusual first name.

When Blue's grandmother was pregnant with his father, her water broke while she was riding in a van and she had to be rushed to the hospital. That ride led her to come up with the name "Vander" for her newborn son, who in turn passed it down to the future Marquette guard when he was born.

"My dad was a sports guy too, so they thought it was a pretty good sports name," Blue said. "My mom thought I'd like the name because it's unique and different. Not too many people have the name in the world."

Blue indeed likes the name just as his parents suspected he would. The only thing about it that irritates him sometimes is that people he meets either assume his name is Evander or they think his first and last name are all one word.

Having a memorable name gets Blue some attention, but that's not why he wants people to remember him.

Said Blue: "It sets me apart from everybody, but I want to be known for my play more than my name."

Cashmere Wright, G, Cincinnati

Cashmere Wright's friends and family knew him by his middle name of Akeem for the first 13 years of his life until one of his AAU coaches discovered his unique first name.

"The coach told him there were lots of Akeems out there," the Cincinnati guard's mother, Patricia Wright, told the Dagger last year. "Then he asked, 'Why don't you go by Cashmere?'"

Wright was lukewarm about the transition for a while, but he warmed to the idea when he discovered girls liked the name Cashmere better than Akeem.

"The girls thought it was cute and they thought it was unique," Patricia Wright said. "That's when he became Cash."

Patricia Wright came up with the name Cashmere for her son when she was pregnant and heard someone on a TV show mention the word. Ironically, however, she's now one of the few people in Wright's life who still know him as Akeem.

"His family and friends all call him Cashmere, but it's still hard for me," Patricia Wright said. "Every time I call him Akeem, he just looks at me and laughs."

Deuce Bello, G, Baylor

Quddus Tosin Bello had always gone by his given first name until his AAU teammates told him at practice one day that he needed a nickname.

"My team said my name was too long," the Baylor freshman recalled. "They took the "Qu" off and made it "Deuce."

"Deuce" is a fitting first name for Bello because the highly touted freshman arrived at Baylor with a reputation as a gifted scorer and a world-class dunker. The North Carolina native has played sparingly this season on a deep, experienced Bears team, averaging 3.3 points and 2.0 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game.

Asked whether he liked his given name or his nickname better now, Bello says that he enjoys having an original name but he prefers his nickname.

"It's a good fit for basketball," he said. "My teammates like it too."

Honorable mention: Jordair Jett, G, Saint Louis; Staats Battle, G, NC State; Dakota Slaughter, F, Alabama; Scoop Jardine, G, Syracuse; Grandy Glaze, F, Saint Louis

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