January 29, 2008

The Life...Behind the Nicknames

Jan. 29, 2008

Nicknames...ah yes. Sports are full of them. Baseball's "Hammerin' Hank", two-sport "Neon Deon", or "Wilt the Stilt" and "Larry Legend" from the NBA. Often times how a nickname began is as interesting as the name itself. Before we look into the nicknames behind this year's SCU men's basketball squad let's set one ground rule. It's not a nickname if you give it to yourself. Luckily, no "Agent Zero"' or "T-Bone"'s on this team. We all know when you try and give yourself a nickname (Seinfeld fans) you may end up as "Co-Co"...and that's never pretty.

My quest to get the back story on this year's Bronco nicknames starts in an obvious place. I noticed very few people, even the coaching staff, referred to sophomore shooting guard Jonathan Gunderson as anything other than "Gunner". On the surface it makes perfect sense "Gunner" is one of the better pure shooters on the team, 46% from behind the arc.

"On the birth certificate it's `Jonathan' but I go by `Gunner'," said Gunderson. "Back in fifth grade my AAU coach nicknamed me `Gunner'. As I would be dribbling up, just as I crossed half-court, he'd tell me to shoot. At first I thought it was a joke but it became a natural thing and I'd shoot it just after half court and make a good amount of them. The nickname stuck from there on out."

Makes sense, right? But how did it follow Gunderson from High School in Southern California to his college days on the Mission Campus? Gunderson says it became more than just an on-the-court thing when his high school friends and then college coaches and teammates started calling him by the nickname.

"Yes, I do have a `GUNNER' license plate. I guess that helps keep it going."

We also know sometime it's better to give than to receive.

"Gunner gave me that one." Said sophomore guard Zac Tiedeman, smiling, of his "Fits" moniker. "I guess my style of clothes or outfits aren't up to his high standards. So now he and some of the guys call me that. It doesn't bother me." (Note: Zac was wearing a sweatshirt and basketball warm-ups at the time of this comment.)

Junior Center John Bryant has been "Big John" or "Big Country" due to his striking resemblance to former Oklahoma St. / Memphis Grizzlies Center Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. Uncanny, until Bryant grew his hair out this past summer, ditching the shaved-head look for the curls of this season.

I hadn't heard of senior point guard Brody Angley's "Bud" until a recent road trip. It started in elementary school and around the neighborhood. "I think it started from some of the older kids calling to me with `Hey Buddy' and `Hey Bud' and that turned into "Bud".

7-Foot senior center Josh Higgins is "Officer Higgins" from his plans to become a police officer after college.

Others are given nicknames to simply make things easier.

Freshman Andrew Zimmerman is also known as "A.Z.",

Senior Forward Okay Mbanugo goes by "Chukes". His given first name is Okechukwu.

I guess, like it or not, we've all had nicknames at one time in our lives. Dictionary.com defines a `Nickname' as : a name added to or substituted for the proper name of a person, place, etc...as in affection, ridicule, or familiarity:

Whether it "Bud", "Fits", or "Gunner", I think this year's Broncos has a little bit of everything.