DAILY DIRT: Is ‘slow moving’ Robbie Avila — a.k.a Larry Nerd — the Next Big Thing in college basketball?


Robbie Avila's Indiana St. squad missed the NCAA Tournament, but they'll be in the NIT. Photo from gosycamores.com

Daily Dirt for Monday, March 18, 2024

He’s a little pudgy, wears glasses and probably enjoys a wide variety of snacks. I love this guy … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 896 of The Daily Dirt.

1. Almost lost in all the Caitlin Clark hoopla surrounding the current college basketball season has been the saga of Robbie Avila at Indiana State.

Avila is a 6-foot-10 sophomore center for the Sycamores whose body, shall we say, lacks “definition”. Yeah, he’s a bit on the soft side, but the boy can ball. (Just imagine a much taller version of myself.)

The bespectacled Avila has led Indiana State to basketball heights it had not reached since the 1979 days of Larry Bird. Avila’s unlikely heroics this season have inspired a number of classic nicknames for the 21-year-old kid from Oak Forest, Ill.

“As a slow-moving player whose game works even when it seems like it shouldn’t, he has drawn comparisons to NBA champion Nikola Jokic,” writer Bailey Bassett notes. “Some have even given Avila the moniker ‘College Jokic,’ although that is far from the only creative nickname he’s earned.”

The best, which incorporate his overall appearance, including the thick horn-rimmed glasses, are the following:

  • Larry Nerd
  • Larry Blurred
  • Cream Abdul-Jabbar
  • Steph Blurry

Make funny of Avila all you wish, but he has led Indiana State to its first top-25 ranking in 46 years and the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference title. An early exit in the MVC postseason tournament cost the Sycamores a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but at least we’ll get to watch him in the NIT. (Indiana State plays SMU at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the 32-team NIT.)

2. Here’s a new list of celebrities you might not have realized are as old as they actually are:

Jane Fonda, 86: Fonda, who was outspoken against the Vietnam War, earned the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and was blacklisted in Hollywood, told the late Barbara Walters in 1988: “I would like to say something, not just to Vietnam veterans in New England, but to men who were in Vietnam, who I hurt, or whose pain I caused to deepen because of things that I said or did. I was trying to help end the killing and the war, but there were times when I was thoughtless and careless about it and I’m very sorry that I hurt them. And I want to apologize to them and their families. … I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.”

Paul McCartney, 81: McCartney’s earliest musical influences included Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry. When asked why the Beatles did not include Presley on the “Sgt. Pepper” album cover, McCartney replied, “Elvis was too important and too far above the rest even to mention … so we didn’t put him on the list because he was more than merely a … pop singer, he was Elvis the King.”

James Earl Jones, 93: The Voice.

Jones has been described as “one of America’s most distinguished and versatile” actors for his performances on stage and screen, and “one of the greatest actors in American history”..His deep voice has been praised as a “a stirring basso profondo that has lent gravel and gravitas” to his projects. Over his career, Jones has received three Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award.

William Shatner, 92: Former “Star Trek” co-star George Takei does not have pleasant memories of working with Shatner on the landmark TV series. Takei wrote about his issues with Shatner in his 2004 memoir, “To the Stars”. Interviewed in London in 2023, Takei made it clear that the passage of time had done nothing to assuage his hostility toward his former colleague: “Shatner is a cantankerous old fossil. All of us have had problems with him … There is this fiction that Bill and Leonard (Nimoy) were good friends, but we know better — Leonard privately expressed his irritation with Bill. Bill is an egocentric, self-involved prima donna.”

3. I know it’s hard to believe, but the following songs are 47 years old this year:

  • “Margaritaville,” by Jimmy Buffett: Buffet was once a correspondent for Billboard magazine.
  • “Brick House,” by the Commodores: Lionel Richie played saxophone on this hit.
  • “Stayin’ Alive,” by the Bee Gees: This was one of five songs written specifically for the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.
  • “Dreams,” by Fleetwood Mac: The group’s iconic “Rumours” album has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
  • “We Will Rock You,” by Queen: In the band’s early years, members said their music was inspired by the Beatles, Deep Purple, The Who, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Genesis, Cream and Jimi Hendrix.

Steve Thought O’ The Day — Sounds like William Shatner was not the most popular guy on the Star Trek campus.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. Randy Phillips will not stand for any anti-Shatner rhetoric.

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