WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lourawls Nairn Jr. may have the most interesting name in the country, but its origin is actually quite mundane: Sunrise Christian Academy’s point guard and the No. 61 player in the Class of 2014 was simply named after his father.
His grandparents named Lourawls Sr. after — you guessed it — Lou Rawls, a soul and R&B singer back in the ’60s and ’70s.
But Junior’s nickname is a pop culture reference that’s all his own, as he’s known to friends and family as “Tum Tum”, a reference that most children of the ’90s will recognize instantly. It’s the name of the youngest brother in ‘3 Ninjas’ movies, who was known more for his ability to eat than his skills as a ninja.
“When I was little I used to eat everything,” Nairn told NBCSports.com during a break in the action at last weekend’s Nike Global Challenge. “So they called me Tum Tum.”
While the nickname has managed to stick — those pesky family names always seem to, don’t they? — Nairn no longer looks like a “Tum Tum”. He’s a 5-foot-10, 170 lb rock of a point guard that lists offers from the likes of Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, Memphis, Minnesota, and Creighton. He may be the fastest player in the country with the ball in his hands, a nightmare to try and keep out of the paint, particularly in transition.
Nairn has work to do on his perimeter shot, however, and he’s still learning the nuances of playing the point guard position, but that’s understandable. Six years ago, Nairn — who turns 19 in October — wasn’t a basketball player, he was a sprinter in the Bahamas, a nation where track and field is much more relevant that hoops.
“The Bahamas is a track nation, so everybody ran track,” Nairn said. “Ever since I touched a basketball, I knew it was me. I stopped running track immediately and just played.”
“I started playing basketball seriously at 12, almost 13. The first year I got serious with it, the next year I went to America.”
And that’s where Nairn’s journey started. He spent a couple years in Florida playing at South Florida Prep Christian Academy in Ft. Lauderdale before enrolling at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, KS. Sunrise has become something of a pipeline for Bahamian basketball players. Buddy Hield, who Nairns calls his “best friend”, played at Sunrise last season before heading off to Oklahoma. Three other Bahamians — senior Andre Sands and juniors Travis Mullings and Nathan Bain — currently populate Sunrise’s roster.
The Bahamas is turning into a somewhat fertile recruiting ground for colleges and prep schools alike. Former LSU and Louisiana Tech big man Magnum Rolle, who was a second round NBA draft pick in 2010, is Bahamian. Houston’s ‘Chicken’ Knowles, Maryland’s Shaquille Cleare, UCLA signee Wanaah Bail, Wichita State’s Kadeem Coleby and former Texas Tech signee Michael Carey all hail from the islands most of us consider paradise.
“The thing is, we don’t have a lot of guys that’s really good, it’s just raw talent,” Nairn said. “The guys you see coming over from the Bahamas is guys that really have a chance to do something in the United States, because there’s way more opportunities here than there is back home.”
And the opportunities that Nairn is looking for aren’t just on the court.
“Free education is the most important thing. Basketball is basketball, but obviously, you gotta get the free education when you go to school,” Nairn said. His goal after basketball? To be a real estate agent. “I just think that’s me. I’m good with people, I can talk about anything.”
And it’s true. Nairn, who is quick to flash a smile and crack a joke with a voice that will remind you more of Marvin Gaye than Lou Rawls, says that there is only one thing he doesn’t like about moving from the tropics to the Midwest. “I hate the weather in Kansas,” he said. “Everything else is perfect. I go to a Christian school, people love basketball, give me opportunities to succeed.”
He also said he doesn’t miss home — No beaches? No problem. “I go to the pools.” — or the home-cooking, which is surprising considering the origins of his nickname. But it also makes sense, as his favorite meal back home consists of “barbecue chicken, peas and rice, coleslaw, potato salad, some mixed vegetables.” Sounds like something you can get in Wichita.
Nairn said he never ate much seafood back home, only on special occasions. He also said that, despite growing up on an island, he’s never been fishing.
“A lot of people ask me that, but I’ve never been fishing in my life. I never had the opportunity,” he said, which is one of the biggest reasons he came to the States.
“But I will. Once everything’s done here.”
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.