A couple weeks ago, I started getting Harold Deane vibes from what I was hearing about Kihei Clark. When he took the court against Towson, he immediately fulfilled one prediction that had been heard with growing frequency: Kihei Clark is going to be a fan favorite. Then I saw this photo and I knew he had to have a nickname:
It takes balls to pose like that when you're the smallest guy on the floor. But that's what he has. Towson's #0 tried to bully him: walking into him, leaning in, shoving off with an elbow, but Kihei ignored it all and when he bulled up after stealing the inbounds pass and laying it in, that was badass. That's what Kihei is: a BALMF.
Tony called him "a pest." It wasn't a nickname; it was a description of his play. He's a pest. Yeah, you could call him "The Pest," but let's be a little more imaginative.
Thinking back to Harold Deane, of whom Kihei reminds me, I wanted a nickname also reminiscent of Deane. Before we get there, let's draw out the parallels.
Deane was an afterthought recruit by Jeff Jones. All his offers were low to mid major, but Harold wanted better. He wanted to play at the highest level he could. Boston U was his best offer at the time. He went to FUMA, and from there Jeff Jones offered him a scholarship because he had one he couldn't give to anyone else. It had been a bit of a disappointing recruiting class coming two years after UVA's version of a fab five. Rankings were not as big a thing then as they are now, but if they had gone beyond top 50-100, Deane would have been 325 or so. When Fletcher Arritt told Jones that Deane would start for him, Jones laughed. Literally. He actually laughed - at least that's the way Arritt told it.
Kihei, of course, was ranked around 325 by the services and his best offer was UC Davis, where he was committed. But he wanted to play at the highest level he could, so after he led Oakland Soldiers to the Peach Jam championship, he decommitted. Tony Bennett offered because he needed a point guard and he had a scholarship he couldn't give to anyone else.
Leading into Harold's freshman year, we started to hear out of summer workouts and fall practices that this Harold Deane kid was a player. He was tough, didn't back down, could knock down shots. As the season approached, we began to hear that the kid might even play. He was ahead of the more heralded guard recruit, Mike Powell. He played in the exhibition games and looked good, real good. He was going to back up Cory Alexander and maybe even play next to him now and then.
In summer workouts and early fall practice, we heard that Kihei was impressing the players and coaches. As practice went on, we heard that he was going to play. He was super competitive and did not back down from anything. He also could knock down shots, distribute and defend the hell out of you. After the scrimmages, it was apparent he was going to back up Ty Jerome and maybe even play next to him now and then.
Harold was a short guard and he wasn't real quick - probably not quite quick enough for ACC level. But he stepped up and showed he belonged. He was a great defender and could play on offense, largely because his competitiveness and will were an edge. Because of his feistiness he earned the nickname "The Badger."
Kihei is probably too small for ACC level, but in the first game he showed that he's not going to back down from it and he can play.
When I tweeted that Kihei needed a nickname and I was looking for a small mammal, @FrankBeater suggested the Mongoose.
Kihei is clearly a viper killing MONGOOSE. pic.twitter.com/Urmou34hG0— Real Frank Beater (@FrankBeater) November 7, 2018
A small mammal is a fit, IMO, because of that kinship between Deane and Clark as the unheralded recruit with the physical "disqualifier" who manages to compete at the highest level because of his competitiveness, toughness, and ability to maximize his strengths with his intangibles. Harold was slow, but he was strong. Kihei is short but he is quick. Both are aggravating defenders who will get in your face and accept any challenge.
The badger weighs between 18 and 40 pounds, depending on species. It's a pretty big mammal. The Mongoose is smaller, some species being as heavy as 11 pounds. But the Mongoose is no less feisty. It's such a pest that it's banned from the United States. Introduced into places like Hawaii to control vermin like rats, it is such an efficient and competitive killing machine that it wiped out the small fauna in the area. They might look cute and furry but they tangle with poisonous snakes and won't back down from the king of the jungle.
That's why The Mongoose is my choice for Kihei's nickname (and totem animal). Or 'Goose for short (@GuysinTiesPod).
I don't know about you, but when I see that picture of the mongoose and lion, I have a vision of Zion Williamson posting Kihei up, backing him down, only to find himself wondering where the ball went as Kihei races downcourt to the other end to dish to Kyle Guy in the corner for an open three.