Spokane, Wash. • The hair began as an accident and grew to become almost folklore.
At Gonzaga home games, fans wave signs that read, "Long hair, don't care." A few particularly devoted fans have their hair pulled back in narrow headbands.
Kelly Olynyk's long, flowing hair flops up and down as he runs the court, kept out of his eyes by a thin, dark headband. Along with his 7-foot frame and eye-popping statistics, Olynyk's hair has become one of the most recognizable parts of college basketball this season. And the redshirt junior would have deprived fans of it had the man from Kamloops, British Columbia, just been comfortable with a U.S. barber.
"I've never gotten my hair cut in the USA, and last year I didn't go home for Christmas," Olynyk said. "Then I started growing it out, and I liked it. A couple of roommates I lived with last year were big soccer fans. They got me into soccer, and I liked Sergio Ramos' hair.
"It was long, and he had the Euro headband. I wanted to try that."
Olynyk's hair falls to his shoulders now, and he says he's going to continue growing it out until after the NCAA Tournament. After the season, he plans to cut it and donate it to charity.
After the season is the key, though; nobody wants to mess with Olynyk's 17.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.
His Bulldogs are 25-2, 12-0 in West Coast Conference play, after their 71-61 win over San Francisco on Saturday.
Until the scissors come, Olynyk will enjoy what his hair has become: the polarizing subject of a debate that even pits his teammates on opposing ends. People love or hate his locks, Olynyk said "there's no indifference." Zags fans embrace it and replicate it; opposing fans heckle him for it.
"I would say he needs to cut that, he needs to get rid of that, but it's working for him," Gonzaga forward Elias Harris said, laughing. "I'm not really superstitious, but in this case, he should leave it. Don't cut it."