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Can You Spell the Names of These Syracuse Athletes?

Thanks to yet another blowout in the NBA playoffs, the most exciting sporting event that took place Thursday night was the Scripps National Spelling Bee. To be fair to the Warriors and Cavs, they would have needed five overtimes to match the 21-round title bout between 12-year-old champion Ananya Vinay and 14-year-old runner-up Rohan Rajeev, both of whom blew through preposterous words like heiligenschein, durchkomponiert, and wayzgoose. (By the way, Vinay said she wrote a victory speech a week before the event. B-A-L-L-E-R.)

But if watching children effortlessly drill words you wouldn’t even try to sound out made you feel a little dumb, here’s your chance to reclaim your title of Smart Person. Welcome to the Syracuse Sports Spelling Bee.

Here’s how this works: I’ll give you a couple initials or one of the names of an SU athlete — we’ll limit the pool to football and basketball — and use them in a sentence (or two) so you know who I’m talking about. Shoutout to Michael Rand of the Star Tribune for the idea. A link to the answer key is at the bottom of the page. Let’s roll.

B. M. K. — This big man arrived in Central New York in 2010 and spent four years on Jim Boeheim’s team. The 6-foot-10 center (country of origin: Senegal) never played more than 17 minutes per game in a season, but averaged more than a block a night and shot nearly 60 percent from the field for his career. Since wrapping up his Orange career in 2014, he has suited up for Boeheim’s Army in The Basketball Tournament.

J. Grant — This über-athletic forward overlapped at Syracuse with the last guy, but Grant’s college career lasted half as long. The last name is straightforward — that’s why I’m giving it to you. But good luck with the first name. Grant declared for the draft after a strong sophomore season and currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Michael ___ — I can’t reveal the first initial in this guy’s last name — that’s part of the challenge — but you shouldn’t have any difficulty uncovering his identity. Somehow older than Mr. Grant, Michael was far and away the Orange’s best player in 2015-16, when he scored in double-figures in all 37 of the team’s games and led SU to the Final Four. Here’s a hint: Lil Wayne would say he rolls in silence like lasagna.

S. Thomas — I promised you some football, so here it is. This hard-hitting safety started in all four of his years at Syracuse, earning First-Team All-Big East honors as a senior in 2012. The Steelers chose him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, and after four seasons in Pittsburgh, Thomas signed with the Jets this week.

K. O. — The “Belgian Waffle” (I can’t decide if this nickname is purely wonderful or embarrassingly lazy) spent a couple seasons at Syracuse in the late 2000s, manning the wing in Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. He had some bright moments with the Orange, but he may be best-remembered as the guy who somehow survived this mammoth fall. Hint: AHN-jeh-naht.

D. A-A. — This forward’s initials one-up those of Fizz founder Damon Amendolara (sorry, boss), and his full name trumps almost everyone’s, in terms of raw length and impossibility to pronounce. The 6-foot-6 former swimmer is perhaps best-known as the former practice partner of Rakeem Christmas, who credits this guy with helping him take a massive step forward in his senior season. To me, he’s best-known as the Carrier Dome’s favorite walk-on — even though he earned a scholarship last season.

A. O. — More big men, please! This 6-foot-9, 275-pound wrecking ball anchored the zone for four years. After breaking out in his redshirt-sophomore season in 2007-08, he averaged at least 10 points and a block per game in each of his last three years at SU and ended up with an astronomical career field goal percentage of 64.8.

Paul P. — We go back to this gridiron for this next one, a coach who helmed the Orange from 1991-2004. He oversaw what could reasonably be called a Golden Era — OK, maybe a Silver Era? — of Syracuse football, with only two losing records in 14 seasons. Now, though, as defensive line coach at Boston College, he looks more like a Pasqua-zombie (the pun was worth spoiling the first half of his name).

P. C. — This 7-foot-2 string bean disappointed in his first season at Syracuse, but he was dealing with an array of injuries all year long (most notably, a torn retina that ended his season before the calendar flipped). A consensus top-100 recruit and ESPN’s no. 7 center in the Class of 2014, this pterodactyl look-alike is still oozing with upside.

J. B. — Widely considered the greatest football player of all time, this running back was the most notable owner of the fabled no. 44. Oh, and he might have been the best lacrosse player ever, too. If you miss this one, you’re banned from the Carrier Dome — and spelling bees — for life. (I suppose these initials could also belong to the man who has coached SU basketball for the last 41 years, in which case you’re still banned from the Dome if you misspell it.)

Let’s see how you did!

Did we forget any tough names? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter: @OrangeFizz.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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