ncaa-d1 flag

Mike Lopresti | | January 20, 2021

The stories behind college basketball's best names this season

College basketball rankings: Houston, Alabama jump in latest Power 36

So here was the future Valparaiso guard, just trying to order a pizza. Things were going fine, until he had to give his name for delivery.

Goodnews Kpegeol.

Huh? Hold on that large pepperoni, please.

“The pizza guy told me he needed to put a name in and when I told him my name, he didn’t believe me,” Goodnews was saying. “He told me he couldn’t put that name in the system. So I wasn’t able to order pizza from him.”

Good news. Now Goodnews is a redshirt sophomore at Valpo, has had no pizza order issues lately, and is certainly deserving of a spot on college basketball’s 2021 all-name team. “I usually get three reactions,” he said about what happens when he introduces himself. “People either don’t believe me, they like it, or they have a question. Who names their kid Goodnews?”

UNDEFEATED: Gonzaga's start told in 25 otherworldly numbers

That would be Charity and Letom Kpegeol back in Minnesota, who believed their son would grow up and do the world good.

“I’ve always liked my name,” he said. Even if it did get a little tiring hearing the other teams’ fans so often call him Bad News. “My mom is very spiritual, and she said whatever she was feeling, that’s what she came up with.”

That explains his siblings too. Sister Peace, and brothers Confidence, Bright and Wisdom. They all have one thing in common, anyway: A natural conversation starter for the rest of their lives. “One hundred percent,” Goodnews said.

But then, so does the freshman guard from Loyola Marymount. He’s L Simpson. No, there are no letters missing from his first name. It’s just L. He can take it from there.

“My dad’s name is Lantz and he didn’t want to call me Lantz Jr. because he thought I should be my own person. I believe my great-grandmother, her nickname was L, so they just called me L. It was a simple as that. My grandma was very upset, she didn’t want that name for me, but she loves it now, so it came out perfect.”

But not always.

“Every new school I went to, every new year of class, every new semester, there’d be something that happened in class the first day. My freshman year, I wasn’t there yet during roll call, someone said, I think we have a typo, there’s some kid named L on here. Someone else said, no, no, I’ve met that kid, and he’s actually that letter. I’ve even had friends I’ve known for four years who ask me, is it really just L?

MARCH MADNESS: 2021 complete schedule and dates

“I honestly love it. It’s unique and different. I’ve yet to meet anybody with the name.”

Plus, there’s another upside. “All my papers take a lot less time to fill out.”

Ain’t that the truth? And speaking of Truth, introducing the freshman guard at East Tennessee State, Truth Harris.

“My dad was born into an orphanage and he didn’t know his biological parents, so when I was born, I was the first of his bloodline and the truth of his existence.

“People would make jokes about it like, truth or dare? Are you telling the truth? They’d ask, are you serious? As I’ve grown up, I’ve got more comfortable with it. I love my name.”

There’s a father who loves it, too.

“I feel like every day he’s more and more proud of me.”

They’re everywhere, the names that might first be hard to understand, but in the end are very easy to remember.

Rhode Island’s Fatts Russell . . .

He’s a senior who has been as much a perennial choice on the all-name team as Gonzaga is in the top-10. As a baby, he ate everything not nailed down and was chubby little guy. So his mom called him Fatts, and opposing team hecklers have been grateful ever since. “At first when I was six or seven, I didn’t really like it,” he once said. “I felt like people were going to make fun of it. As I got older and matured, I just grew into it and started liking the uniqueness of it.” At last count, Fatts was averaging 15 points a game for Rhode Island, had 31 steals and was pulling down more than four rebounds, even though he’s 5-11. Nobody makes fun of that.

High up on any list of unique names should be, well, Unique McLean . . .

He’s a graduate student starting for St. Francis Brooklyn. His mother’s name is Monique and his dad’s idea was to tweak that for son. One problem. She kept having daughters. On their final chance, a baby boy. You could say Unique was their shot at the buzzer.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ranking 10 candidates

Michigan State’s Rocket Watts . . .

His father picked up the name for speed in football, and passed it down to his son, who was no turtle himself. So the original name of Mark pretty much vanished years ago.

Louisiana Tech’s Thailand Elder . . .

Guess where he was born? Wrong. His father was stationed in Thailand in the Army, and preferred his old base, over the city where his son was born. Or else the Bulldogs would have Chicago Elder on the roster. But then, if it’s a city name you want . . .

NJIT’s San Antonio Brinson . . .

The senior beat Vermont earlier this season with a last-second shot. Seems his mother let the grandmother do the naming, and she was a Texas native. Probably a good thing she didn’t like the town of Waxahachie better than San Antonio. He’s more known in his circles as Tone or San.

South Carolina’s Seventh Woods . . .

Actually, Seventh Day’Vonte Woods. See Genesis, chapter 2 for further information. He used to play at North Carolina but transferred, so the Tar Heels had to find new name-team candidates.

North Carolina’s Leaky Black and Puff Johnson . . .

Leaky’s grandmother went with that as a version of his middle name Malik. Johnson was a kid who liked to start his day with a big bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Together, they keep North Carolina a name-team fixture.

RANKINGS: This week's Power 36

CSU Bakersfield’s Czar Perry . . .

A nickname, right? As the old Romanov czars back in mother Russia used to say, nyet. Given name. Between Czar and brothers King and Prince, that’s one family tree of aristocrats. His father predicted his sons would achieve greatness, and decided on names to match.

Canisius’ Majesty Brandon . . .

The Golden Griffins’ leading scorer is one of six kids, with brothers named Dramatic, Chazz and Majestic. He never really got the word why, but believes his father — who is a nice, simple Donald — wanted something a little more memorable for his sons. Bullseye. The Canisius IT department might have been a little confused, though. Students’ email addresses almost always are set up to include their last name and initial of their first. But for him, it’s majestyb. Why? Best guess is someone looked at Majesty Brandon and figured it just had to be the other way around.

Drexel’s Coletrane Washington . . .

Drexel Athletics Drexel's Coltrane Washington.

Ever heard of the jazz legend John Coltrane? Washington’s parents were big fans. Add an e and, bingo, a tribute to the saxophone.

Charlotte’s Anzac Rissetto . . .

First, a brief history lesson. The Anzacs were Australian and New Zealand forces who served together in World War I and suffered horrific casualties at Gallipoli. Rissetto is a New Zealand native who comes from a family with a long military background. You can guess the rest.

We could go on all day. Western Carolina has Sin’Cere McMahon. There is Precious Ayah for Miami Ohio, Meekness Payne for New Hampshire, and Supreme Cook for Fairfield. From words on high, Incarnate Word can send out Godsgift Ezedinma, and Wofford has Messiah Jones.

Some names are not what they seem.

There’s Merrimack’s Ziggy Reid, but would you prefer his given name, Siegfried? And New Mexico State’s Tennessee Owens, who was born in New Mexico and started out in college at Alabama. By the way, Tennessee’s his middle name. He’s really Benson Owens.

Bellarmine’s Bash Wieland is really Sebastian. Maybe more interesting is why the Knights’ leading scorer is Pedro Bradshaw, when he’s really supposed to be De’Andre. His grandfather held him as a baby and said, “You look like a Pedro to me.”

A reserve for Xavier is KyKy Tandy, which is just a nickname from Dekeyvan. But it seems to fit since he was born in Kentucky.

There are echoes of the names of past NBA greats. More than a dozen Kobes play in Division I, for instance. Not mention a Koby, a Kobi, a Kobby, a Cobi and a Kobey. Mississippi State’s leading scorer is Iverson Molinar, so take a bow Allen.

And there is homage to past generations. Long Island has a freshman guard named James Hand V. If there was an All-American team for fourth generation names, Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV would be a lock. He’s the Buffs’ top scorer, and just became the school’s all-time assists leader. He doesn’t really know how the McKinley business began back with his great grandfather. But he is pretty sure that if he ever has a son, the world will greet McKinley Wright V.

The all-name team will save a spot for him.

50 memorable quotes from nearly a decade of covering NCAA DII sports, Part I

Take a walk down memory lane and look back at some of Wayne Cavadi's most memorable interviews from DII football to DII women's basketball and the NBA court.

The complete guide to the DII women's volleyball championship tournament

Here is everything you need to know about the DII volleyball championship tournament from important dates, how it works, and a complete list of all-time championship matches.

More than 200 DII championship contests to be streamed in 2023-24

Hudl has announced an exclusive partnership with the NCAA and NCAA Digital, managed by Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, to stream more than 200 NCAA Division II championship contests in 2023-24.