Six games in and the puns have been laid on thick already when it comes to C J Fair. The ridiculous dunk last night led to a bunch of “Man, that was just unFair” and other obvious blobs of text. I thought to myself “I’m still waiting for the Waiters puns to start flying.” (For example: “Waiters is serving his purpose”) But that got me thinking about guys whose names are real words. I thought of a few through the years, and began wondering — because I am a dork — which SU roster in recent memory has the most such players?
So I popped over to the incomparable OrangeHoops season-by-season records, and started browsing the last 25 seasons, starting with 1985-86. (I started there because 25 is a good number, and it’s also around the time I started being cognizant of SU basketball.) Soon I realized I needed a criterion for what constitutes a “real word”, and decided to use as my reference the official Scrabble Dictionary. Because, like I said, I am a dork. Anyway, a comically wasted hour later, here are the results:
This season’s squad does indeed have the highest number of word names of any team in those past 25 seasons. In addition to Waiters and Fair, there are Jones (craving), Riley (angry), and Joseph (a type of woman’s cloak), plus walk-on Nolan Hart (a male deer) for a total of six. “Fab” is also a word, but I’m using last names only. (”Melo” is not valid.) And in case you were wondering, neither “baye”, “moussa”, nor “keita” is a word. In English anyway.
Two teams had five word names each: 1987-88 featured Matt Roe, Erik Rogers (meaning “indicates receipt of a message”, not the naughty British slang term), Herman Harried, and walk-ons Nick Palmer and Aaron Tweedy. And 1988-89 had nearly the same group as that, but replace Tweedy with Richard Manning.
The 2004-2005 squad had five players with word names, but actually only four different names: Josh and Dayshawn Wright joined Craig Forth, Josh Pace, and walk-on Josh Brooks.
There are several teams with four word-named players:
- 2002-03 and 2003-04 had Pace, Forth, Brooks, and walk-on Gary Hall
- 1998-99 and 1999-2000 had Jason Hart (a male deer, as noted above), Tony Bland, Damone Brown, and Allen Griffin
- 1995-96 had Otis Hill, Z Sims (plural of “sim” meaning ‘a simulation’), and walk-ons Elimu Nelson (a wrestling hold) and Jim May. This team also had word-name near-miss Bobby Lazor.
Only a few other word-name players have come through the program in the past 24 seasons, scattered throughout. There was walk-on Brad Small in 1990-91, Rodney Walker from 85-87, Mike Jones in 2006, and of course Ethan Cole (a plant in the cabbage family, which also adequately describes Ethan Cole’s basketball skills).
A few names that were close but did not qualify: Wes or Dave Johnson (I guess because it is slang only), Tony Scott (though “scot” is valid), Donte Greene, and Sam Spann.
So there you have it. If ESPN announcers start including “Did you know Syracuse has 6 players whose last names are real words?” in their rehearsed talking points, along with “Scoop and Dion are cousins” and “Brandon Triche’s uncle played for Boeheim”, then I’ll know someone is reading this.