Scott Fowler

It’s Duby Okeke! Winthrop fan favorite has unique name, game

Winthrop's Duby Okeke is a ferocious dunker for the Eagles but shoots only 26.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Winthrop's Duby Okeke is a ferocious dunker for the Eagles but shoots only 26.8 percent from the free-throw line. AP

I love a good name, and Winthrop big man Duby Okeke certainly has one of those -- as well a role as one of the fan favorites on his team as Winthrop enters its NCAA tournament game Thursday against Butler.

According to the Winthrop Eagles' official pronunciation guide, Duby Okeke is properly pronounced like this: “DOOBIE OKAY-KAY.” It sounds like the name of a character in a Seth Rogen movie, but that's really the way you say it.

Go ahead, say it aloud just once. I dare you not to smile when you do.

In that way, his name reminds me of several of my other favorite names I've run across. Those include:

▪ London England. Not the city, but the very good high school basketball player from Lincoln Charter School. He had 19 points in his team's 1A state championship win last week in Chapel Hill. There was a great moment when England had a nice assist and thepublic address announcer said: “Jehlon Johnson -- from London England!”

▪ Enormous Little. Yes, that was really her name, and she was a beloved teacher's assistant at the North Carolina elementary school where my father-in-law was the principal for many years.

▪ Jack Frost. As we wind back toward Winthrop and Duby Okeke here, it would be wrong not to acknowledge Frost, the longtime (and soon-to-be-retired) guru of the Winthrop Eagles' sports information department.

OK, so there are a few other things to know about Okeke. He's a redshirt junior from Jonesboro, Ga. He’s also 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, a ferocious dunker and the school's all-time leader in blocks.

“Duby is a fan favorite,” Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey said. “He's got shoulders as big as the Rocky Mountains. He looks like he's chiseled out of granite. ...He has a big personality, too. A huge smile. He's a gentle giant off the floor. He shakes hands, kisses babies -- he is my little boy's favorite player.”

Also, Okeke cannot shoot free throws worth a darn. He will enter the NCAA tournament shooting 26.8 percent, having made 15 of his 56 attempts on the season. His free throws have a peculiar sidespin that remind me of the Earth’s rotation.

This is all to explain that Winthrop's crowd goes absolutely nuts when Okeke does make a free throw. When he made two in a row in the Big South title game recently in Rock Hill, the roof just about lifted off the building.

If he made a couple against Butler Thursday to help win the game? Well, that'd be a whole lot more than just Okeke.

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