by Leah Sottile

The Gonzaga men's basketball team proudly sports top-flight All American athletes, a top-five national ranking and a 19-game winning streak. They've got a good resume -- but for some reason, game announcers don't seem to care. Gon-zaw-ga isn't Duke, Stanford or Arizona, so what's the point of giving them any athletic credit at all? To announcers, the Gonzaga team will always be the cute and cuddly Catholic team from Podunk Spo-Cane, Wash.

So instead of discussing the team's stats and playing record, announcers love to get caught up in the personal details of each player. I'll guarantee that during every game, you'll hear at least twice that Adam Morrison has Type 1 Diabetes. If you're lucky, the camera will pan to an up-close-and-personal shot of him injecting himself with insulin.

And true or not, you'll also hear exaggerations about Ronny Turiaf's linguistic ability. The number of languages that he speaks always seems to change depending on who is announcing. Turiaf speaks five, six -- no, seven -- languages. Ronny Turiaf learns a new language every week. He speaks every language known to humankind. What a guy.

But more than any thing else, announcers won't stop talking about Gonzaga's hair -- and neither will Gonzaga viewers, USA Today or the Associated Press. In pictures, the team sports a cornucopia of hairstyle fads and bads. From shaved heads and Q-Tip styles to bleached and styled heads, the Bulldogs really do have it all. When Turiaf has his Afro going, everyone is talking. When Violette shaved his boyish locks, announcers were there with the follow-up report. Scoring whiz kid Blake Stepp was an instant replacement for Dan Dickau in 2002, but everyone commented that his Elvis hair didn't come close to the 1970s style of Dan's. And poor Dickau. His Peter Brady 'do practically took over the man's athletic career. By now, cutting his hair would be career suicide. Even David Pendergraft, a recruit from Brewster coming to the team next year, has a curly red mop.

Gonzaga hair mania first blew through the Kennel in 2000 when Dickau's luscious locks first shook all over the hardwood. To get some professional perspective on Zag styles of the past four seasons, we decided to consult Randy Holland and Gregory Sheldon, stylists from the Studio 1929 hair salon in Browne's Addition. They concur that that Dickau's mop represented the pinnacle of Zag style.

"To me, it's Christopher Atkins in Blue Lagoon," Sheldon says. "It's sexy, and it'd be sexier if it was wet."

"He should carry around a water bottle and keep it moist," Sheldon adds.

The two hairdressers don't know if they agree with Cory Violette's sudden mid-season style decision to shave his head, noting that his head shape might not be the most conducive to such a drastic style. But they say his "little boy" haircut from before had to go.

Without argument, the all-time hair chameleon of the team is forward Ronny Turiaf. Standing at 6-foot-10-inches, Turiaf draws extra attention -- and gains a few extra inches -- with his weekly hairstyle changes. Could it be that he wants more press, or does he crave having hairdressers line up to be his personal pregame stylist?

"It's because I don't have enough money to change my hair," Turiaf says quickly, but then confesses: "I do put a lot of effort into my hair."

Still, after examining Turiaf's 'fro, braids, dreads and other yet-unnamed styles, Holland and Sheldon have a hard time agreeing with all of Turiaf's hair choices.

"Oh, he looks like Andre 3000 [of Outkast]," says Holland.

"My, my, my. He looks like Oprah before her hairdresser," Sheldon frowns. "He needs a gay male hairdresser who knows how to use a sodium hydroxide relaxer."

"Yeah, and I'd throw in some beads," Holland adds. "I'd say he likes to play with his hair -- basketball by day, and hair by night."

But Turiaf says his hair isn't all about looking good -- it's an asset to his game.

"Cory always tells me to pick it out so the guys can't see around me," he says.

Turiaf says fans might see another appearance of his famous larger-than-life afro during the NCAA tournament, but he doesn't want to say too much.

"It's really too early to tell right now. I might start thinking about it a few days beforehand."

Best to keep it a secret from opposing coaches. Sure, these guys can shoot and rebound, but really, it's all about the hair.

Photos by Allen Hubbard for Gonzaga University

Publication date: 03/17/04

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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...