Local athletes attracting attention with their style as well as their play

This month is the one-year anniversary of Center Grove basketball player Noah Gillard’s most recent visit to a barber’s chair.

Whiteland’s Riley Higdon has that run beat by about 10 months.

Boys basketball games are historically dominated by short-haired players, which means seniors Gillard and Higdon are standing out this season for the way they look as much as the way they play.

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Higdon, a starting guard for the Warriors, uses a hair tie to control his blond curls before each game, creating a man bun every bit as impressive as the 5-foot-10 guard’s average of 8.6 points a game.

Gillard, a 6-7 wing who comes off the bench for the 9-1 Trojans, pulls his hair back with a hair tie before pregame warmups. He uses a black tie to make it as inconspicuous as possible, though Gillard might soon break out a red one in keeping with Center Grove’s dominant school color.

“Two years ago I went to Florida for spring break and cut my hair real short. I haven’t cut it since,” Higdon said. “It’s just something different. Not everyone has it. I just keep it back in a bun. My parents don’t really care.”

Higdon’s locks occasionally invite such calls as “Cut your hair” and “You’re a girl” from opposing fan bases.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he said.

Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth said the school’s athletics department doesn’t have a policy regarding hair length.

During the 2015-16 season, Warriors starters Will Higdon (Riley’s brother) and Mike Valle both wore their hair long. Valle returned for his senior season a year ago with his hair shorter.

“My biggest thing as a coach is that every time they step on the court, there might be a college coach or someone who could potentially hire them for a job in the stands,” Wadsworth said. “But the length of someone’s hair does not define their character or who they are as a person.”

Gillard said Trojans coach Zach Hahn “has been really cool” with the senior’s initial sampling of renegade behavior. Come spring, golf coach Matt Rodman plans to discuss Gillard’s locks as the latter, a four-year starter, leads the program’s defense of its state championship.

In June, Gillard secured medalist honors at state having gone five months without a haircut. He wears a white or red Center Grove cap while playing, so a 17-month growth might not even be as obvious as it is while playing basketball.

“I started growing my hair the first week of January (2017). I haven’t cut it since,” Gillard said. “There wasn’t any motivation to it. I didn’t get a haircut over the summer, and my mom and dad don’t like it.

“No one in my family likes it. The kids (at school) like it, but most of the parents don’t.”

Neither Gillard nor Higdon knows if a haircut will take place shortly after their team’s basketball season is over. With all the cuts they make on the court, the one off it remains a mystery.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.