The history behind the letter “J” is fascinating. Per Wikipedia, it originated as a “swash character,” when the letter “I” was used as a Roman numeral, the last “I” would be looped around to form something that looked like a “J.” In 1524, Gian Giorgia Trissino, a German writer, distinguished that “J”-looking character as its own letter. Over time romance languages made the letter “J,” which at the time was just another way to write “I,” into its own sound.
You’re welcome for the 79-word history on the tenth letter of the alphabet. As always at Paint Touches, no charge.
Two of the best and most exciting players of all-time, M.J. and Dr. J., had it in their respective nicknames. A jumper is commonly referred to as a “jay.” Every game begins with a jump ball. Hell, the guy who invented the game’s first name started with a J, Dr. James Naismith. The examples are endless.
So why bring up the history of a random letter? Because it’s been everywhere in the Marquette basketball program since Buzz Williams took over. Consider all this:
- It began innocently in 2008 when Williams took on Joe Fulce (1) and Jimmy Butler (2) in his first ever recruiting class as Marquette’s head coach. He also tacked on centers Chris Otule and Liam McMorrow.
- A year later the J’s showed up again, with Williams receiving commitments from Junior Cadougan (3) and Jeronne Maymon (4). Included in that star-studded class were Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom (remember the D’s). Erik Williams and–remember this guy?–Youssoupha Mbao rounded out the class.
- In 2010 Williams secured by far his best recruiting class (though ’13 may give it a run for its money) by nabbing top-70 recruit Jamail Jones (5), junior-college Player of the Year Jae Crowder (6), as well as Vander Blue, Reggie Smith and Davante Gardner. A stellar class, and two more “J” names.
- The J’s hit a crest in 2011, when only Juan Anderson (7) joined the party. He came with Derrick Wilson (another “D”) and Todd Mayo.
- 2012 was a quiet recruiting class–especially when T.J. Taylor felt homesick and left the program after two weeks–but Williams was able to secure his “J” in Jamal Ferguson (8) to go along with Chicago’s Steve Taylor.
- And in Williams’ most recent recruiting class, 2013, junior-college forward Jameel McKay (9), point guard John Dawson (10) and shooting guard Jajuan Johnson (11) joined Milwaukee natives Duane Wilson and Deonte Burton (more D’s).
- During that stretch Williams brought in three transfers, two of which were also J’s: Jake Thomas (12) and Jamil Wilson (13); Trent Lockett was not. He also accepted walk-on Dylan Flood.
- **NOTE** The only players included here are those who suited up and played a game for Marquette. So no D.J. Newbill, no Brett Roseboro and, again, no T.J. Taylor.
So let’s recap this real quick. Buzz Williams, in his six seasons as head coach, has brought in 29 players who have suited up and played a game for Marquette. Of those, THIRTEEN have first names beginning with the letter “J.”
- Joseph, Jimmy, Junior, Jeronne, Jamail, Jae, Juan, Jamal, Jameel, John, Jake and Jamil. And looking at that list, it’s unbelievable that none of those names are repeats (h/t @ereynolds395). “ja-MEEL” is spelled differently twice, and other versions of the name (“ja-MAYL” and “ja-MALL) are used, but never the same spelling.
And remember those “D” players? You can look up the origin of that letter on your own, but consider that SEVEN more of those 29 players have names that begin with the fourth letter of the alphabet.
- Dwight, Darius, Davante, Derrick, Duane, Deonte and Dylan. Again, no repeats.
That means 20 of 29 (69 percent) players Williams has recruited at Marquette as head coach have had “J” or “D” as the first letter of their first name. Whoa.
Going even further, Marquette has three current assistants whose names begin with “J”: Jamie McNeilly, Jerry Wainwright and Jeff Reynolds (h/t @ArmenSaryan). Video coordinator Devin Johnson adds to the “D” group.
So what does it all mean? Absolutely nothing, other than the offseason is too long and I need things to keep me entertained. Still, it’s pretty interesting that 11 of Marquette’s 14 players next season (78 percent) have a first name that begins with “J” or “D.” The only exceptions are Chris Otule, Steve Taylor and Todd Mayo. Oh, and don’t forget that there are three Wilsons on this year’s team (Derrick, Duane and Jamil).
Lastly, how popular are “J” and “D” first names? Since you wanted to know, 83 of the 600 top-100 players from the last six recruiting classes had “J” first names. That’s 13.8 percent, compared to Marquette’s 45 percent.
As for the D’s, 62 of the 600 top-100 players from the last six classes had “D” first names, good for 10.3 percent. That’s still lower than Marquette’s 24.1 percent mark. Take it for what you will. It’s June and Paint Touches is restless.
Oh, and for good measure….Diamond Stone, anyone?