tampabay.com

Barber bond for Bulls

USF players show unity with designs shaved on their heads. Can we interest you, Coach?

By GREG AUMAN
Published January 9, 2008


TAMPA - Forging chemistry among USF athletes, it would seem, is not just something special in their heads, but often something on them as well.

Just as the Mohawk haircut was a loud proclamation of the football team's unity as the Bulls rose to a No. 2 national ranking, the basketball players have bonded with informal team trips to the barber shop, where they are getting unusual designs shaved into the sides of their heads.

"We saw the football players getting Mohawks, so we decided to get designs," said center Kentrell Gransberry, who sported a fleur de lis - the Saints logo- as a nod to his native Louisiana on the left side of his head for the Big East opener against Rutgers last week. "We're not getting Mohawks."

They're not as drastic a show of team pride, but then again, these guys don't have helmets to help them out.

"Off the court is time for us to bond, to get away from basketball," said point guard Chris Howard, who goes to the same barber - named Elvis - at a shop called Miracles in Motion on Fletcher Avenue, the night before or morning of each home game.

Last week, he convinced Gransberry, his teammate and roommate, to join him; guard Solomon Bozeman has gone with him, and others were being urged Tuesday to join the effort for tonight's home game against No. 20 Pittsburgh. Even teammates who are getting regular haircuts will tag along.

"It helps on the court, things like that. You get to know people, and when you get to know someone, you get to trust them," Howard said. "All that carries onto the basketball court."

Howard, who allowed a recent cut to be taped and posted on USF's official site, gousfbulls.com, said the trust starts with Elvis. He doesn't know what he'll do to him when he sits down, but he knows he'll like the finished product.

"I just let him be creative. I played good when I had a W on my head," said Howard, asked what ornate design he'll sport tonight. "I might go with a W of some sort."

If anything, it's the least permanent bonding session Howard has tried this season. He and freshman Dominique Jones got tattoos together last week, so Jones now has dragon scales on one arm, while Howard's latest reads, "Only God can judge me." First-year coach Stan Heath, off to a promising 10-5 start, said he doesn't mind any haircut on a player if it helps the Bulls work together on the court.

"Little things add up," he said. "If it's something they all want to do to show unity outwardly, it doesn't make much difference to me. I want them to show it in their actions. ... They are. I'm very pleased with our chemistry."

The last piece of the puzzle? For Howard, it's getting Heath, who shaves his head daily, to hold off for a few days and join in on the design, just for the shear fun of it.

"If we go to the Big East tournament, he said he was going to do it," Howard said. "You can put that in the paper."

TONIGHT
USF vs. Pitt
When/where: 7:30; Sun Dome, Tampa.
TV/radio: ESPN2; 1250-AM.