Tourney’s Top 10 Most Beloved Cinderellas
When Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh drained the game-clinching 3-pointer against Kansas on Saturday, he instantly vaulted himself into NCAA Tournament lore for his ridiculous guts and flare for the dramatic. His unusual name is on the lips of everyone in the country and got us wondering, “Where does he already rank among the Top 10 Most Beloved Cinderellas of all-time?” Let’s find out.
10. Yinka Dare (George Washington)
As you’ll see, having a name that sticks out helps a player become a Cinderella darling. Yinka Dare’s name already made him stand out as much as his 7-foot-1 frame, so much so that the “Washington Post” wrote a feature about him in 1991 … before he played a game for George Washington. Then-GW coach Mike Jarvis said of Dare at the time: “It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that this kid, if he ever learns to play, could be something special.”
Turns out he could also play a little ball. In his tournament debut in 1993, he scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 12-5 upset over New Mexico. He and GW easily beat a 13th-seeded Southern before falling to Michigan and Chris Webber. He was billed as the next Hakeem Olajuwon but averaged less than 3 PPG in the NBA. Despite his unsuccessful NBA career, Dare is still remembered by all college basketball fans. Sadly he passed away at the age of 31 in 2004.
9. Harold Arceneaux (Weber State)
If you’re nicknamed “The Show,” you almost have to become a national sensation, right? Well Harold Arceneaux didn’t disappoint on the national stage, which came as no surprise to those who had watched him play at Weber State. It was written about him in the “Salt Lake Tribune” that “he has treated Dee Center crowds to spin moves, lobs and dunks that haven’t been seen around here since, well, never.”
North Carolina also hadn’t seen anything like him either after he scored 36 points (20 in the second half) in Weber State’s 1999 first-round upset. Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan was the first to deify Arceneaux even before the game ended, when he said, “The bar for heroism has now just been raised!” “The Show” has even moved into the 21st century with his own fan page on Facebook. Today he’s starting with Argentina’s Belgrano San Nicolas.
8. Fennis Dembo (Wyoming)
Not to be confused with Dennis Fembo. Named Fennis because his twin sister was Fenise, a profile in the “Denver Post” before the ‘87 tourney read as follows: “For Fennis Dembo of the University of Wyoming, there is no greater pleasure than watching Fennis Dembo play basketball from the view inside Fennis Dembo.” That’s all you need to know about, well, Fennis Dembo. His big-talking confidence made him well-known by his own conference but little else before the 1987 NCAA Tournament.
Then Dembo out dueled UCLA’s Reggie Miller in the second round of the 1987 NCAA Tournament, scoring a career-high 41 points and silencing a usually boisterous Miller. Dembo’s post-game quote when asked about the tradition of UCLA: “Does tradition play any part in the outcome of the game? I didn’t play against no Kareem, no Marques Johnson or no Kiki Vandeweghe.” After a brief NBA career, Dembo bounced around other professional leagues until 1999. He is now living in San Antonio, studying to become an engineer at St. Philips College.
7. Earl Boykins (Eastern Michigan)
The 5-fort-5 Earl Boykins was generously listed as 5-fot-7 in the Eastern Michigan media guide. But when he was first recruited, then-Eagles coach Ben Braun listed him as 5-fot-11 so that he wouldn’t be fired. Braun had nothing to worry about after Earl ‘The Squirrel” Boykins gained Eastern Michigan national prominence that peaked in the 1996 NCAA Tournament.
Behind Boykins’ 23 points, the Eagles downed mighty Duke in the second round, 75-60. His performance caused Mike Krzyzewski to comment, “If Boykins makes one mistake, that’s a lot.” His height made him a media darling. He didn’t win another NCAA Tournament game after that, but Boykins has gone on to a successful NBA career that continues today. He’s currently a guard for the Washington Wizards. Despite being the lightest player in NBA history (roughly 133 pounds), he can bench press over 300 pounds.
6. God Shammgod (Providence)
The New York City point guard could’ve been Providence’s ball boy and he still would’ve gotten attention with that name. But as it stood, Shammgod was the Friars’ starting point guard and a divine one at that. Responsible for teaching Kobe Bryant his deadly crossover, fans were anticipating his performance even before the Big Dance.
Shammgod was downright heavenly during his final four collegiate games. He notched 12 points and nine assists in a second-round upset over Duke and dropped 15 points and seven assists to get his team into the Elite Eight. Despite 23 points and five assists there, the Friars still lost to Arizona in overtime. Turning pro after his sophomore year, he played just one year in the NBA. Today Shammgod lives in New York, nursing a left knee injury and planning to head back to China for the next season.
5. Ali Farokhmanesh (Northern Iowa)
You would never guess Farokhmanesh is the fourth-leading scorer on the team and averages less than 10 PPG. Not after he nailed a bomb to knock off UNLV in the first round, then buried Kansas with one of the gutsiest shots you’ll ever see. The son of an Iranian immigrant is a headline writer’s dream: “Strokemanesh!”, “Ali Ali Oxen Free!”, “Ali Bomaye!”- take your pick. And his primal scream in the final seconds vs. KU is destined for the cover of “Sports Illustrated.”
We can only imagine how many Facebook requests he’s gotten since last Saturday. We put him at the No. 5 spot for now - but he may just be getting started.
4. Bo Kimble (Loyola Marymount)
Everyone has seen the left-handed free throws Bo Kimble shot for his teammate Hank Gathers in the 1990 NCAA Tournament. What some people may not remember is that Kimble and Gathers were more than just good teammates. They were childhood friends. Kimble and Gathers grew up together in Philadelphia and headed out West as a duo.
After one season at USC, they were told their scholarships wouldn’t be renewed. Big mistake. They decided to stay on the West Coast with Loyola and its Philadelphia-bred coach Paul Westhead. We know what happened next. The duo was more than just dynamic for Loyola Marymount, leading Westhead’s frantic up-tempo offense. After Gathers passed away, Kimble became the symbol of his team’s inner strength through a magical tournament run to the Elite Eight defined by his left-handed free throws.
Today Kimble runs the Forty Four for Life Foundation which provides heart disease awareness in Philadelphia.
3. Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Slighted by the very school his father went to (Virginia Tech offered at best a spot on the team as a walk-on), Stephen Curry took his baby face and sweet-shooting stroke to Davidson and impressed his freshman season. But it wasn’t until his sophomore season that he became a national star at the 2008 NCAA Tournament. It helped that Curry’s tale included an NBA dad and a list of ACC schools that refused to take a chance on the younger one. It also helped that his mother happened to be very attractive with no shortage of cutaways for her every reaction.
But Curry also had a heck of a tournament. In the first round, Curry scored 30 points in the second half alone to help down 7th-seeded Gonzaga. Then he had another big second half (25 points) in a second-round upset over Georgetown. The magic continued in the Sweet 16 where he scored 33 points against Wisconsin - in front of LeBron James, no less - to get his team to the Elite Eight. Even in Davidson’s loss to Kansas, Curry dropped 25 points. His star was set from there. Turning pro after his junior season, he was drafted seventh overall in the 2009 NBA draft by Golden State and is currently a favorite for Rookie of the Year honors.
2. Kevin Pittsnogle (West Virginia)
The name first grabs your attention but the man is also a show-stopper. His body heavily tattooed, he stroked it from the 3-point line like few 6-foot-11 players have ever done. And despite his appearance, make no mistake: He can kill your team. Or better yet, he can Pittsnogle them.
It began when he hit three treys in the opener vs. Creighton and hit a fever pitch when he scored 25 points in an overtime loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight. He was so beloved that the “New York Times” even tracked him down last year teaching middle school in West Virginia. He recently attempted a comeback with the D-League’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds but left for personal reasons this past February.
1. Bryce Drew (Valparaiso)
He looked straight out of Hoosiers and the backstory was definitely a movie script. The coach’s son, who chose to play for his dad instead of Notre Dame, drains the game-winner three-pointer for the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win. The dorky dive to the middle of the court was priceless, as was the post-game embrace with his father. After knocking off Ole Miss, Valpo advanced to the Sweet Sixteen – where they fell to Rhode Island and broke America’s collective heart.
The shot is replayed every March and it’s mind-blowing how many people even remember the number of that legendary play (“Pacer”). Only adding to his legend, Bryce returned to Valpo to coach under his dad, Homer, in 2005 – where he remains the associate head coach to this day. His brother, Scott, is Baylor’s head coach.
First Four Out:
Jai Lewis (George Mason)
Along with Jim Larranaga, Lewis became the face of the 2006 George Mason squad during its Cinderella run to the Final Four.
Casey Calvary (Gonzaga)
Made the game-winning tip-in against Florida in the 1999 NCAA Tournament during Gonzaga’s run to the Elite Eight.
Roosevelt Chapman (Dayton)
Nicknamed “Velvet,” Chapman lead the 10th-seeded Flyers all the way to the 1984 Elite Eight before they fell to eventual national champion Georgetown.
“Mouse” McFadden (Cleveland State)
Was the Vikings top scorer and responsible for helping Cleveland State become the first No. 14 seed to beat a No. 3 seed in the 1986 opening round; they reached the Sweet 16.
Editor’s Note: The cocky Omar Samhan (Saint Mary’s) could also be on this list by the time the tournament is over. Stay tuned…