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Virginia Tech: A Star and a Headband


A.D. Vassallo's head. (By Preston Keres - TWP)

For a team coached by an exceedingly bald man, Virginia Tech has some incredible hair tales lurking inside its locker room.

Take A.D. Vassallo, for starters. Last year he made SI.com's Style Archive column for shaving "PR" into the back of his head, but what that site dubbed his back-of-the-head PR stunts have gone far beyond mere letters. Vassallo's dedicated barber, teammate Marcus Travis, has in the past shaved the entire Puerto Rican flag into the back of Vassallo's head. Talk about making a blogger's heart flutter.

"The flag just kind of died off," Travis told me. "It's a lot of work. "

But Vassallo saw a UCLA player with a star shaved into his head (Russell Westbrook?) and decided to get on board. Hence, the look you see here, a young basketball player turning his scalp into a canvass on which his emotions are writ large, or shaved large, or whatever.

"We stuck with just the star; it's in the Puerto Rican flag, so we just put that part on there," Travis the barber said. "It keeps it interesting."

That it does. Vassallo's competition for the coveted "Best Hokie Hair" award was previously the magnificently coiffed Deron Washington, who has plowed through an afro, braids, "locks" and a mohawk during his Virginia Tech career. But early this month, all that hair was chopped. It now resides in a bag that Washington looks at longingly; Vassallo has told Washington he might as well just paste it back onto his barren dome.

"I just look at it and sometimes I get mad that I cut it, but I've got to go with it," Washington said. "You're always gonna miss it for a little while. I'm starting to get over it now, because I know it's gonna come back soon."


Deron Washington's headband. (By Preston Keres - TWP)

Washington's girlfriend--named, what else, "Britney"--suggested he make the trim. She cut off the braids, and then Travis--who else?--finished things off, removing what he called "still a massive amount" of hair.

"I got tired of keeping up with it.; I wanted a new look," said Washington, who hasn't been clean shaven upstairs for seven or eight years. "I just wanted to start over, because I'm about to grow it back and go from there."

Teammates didn't recognize Washington right after the removal; several said they were "shocked." Travis, who has sculpted virtually all of his teammates' hair, now says Vassallo has "by far and away" the best hair on the team, and Vassallo admitted "I got a little edge now" when compared to his teammates.

"He has the most stylish hair on the team now," Washington confirmed. "I've got to step it up. I might come out with something, you never know. I might come out with the New Orleans on my head or something. I don't know, I'm thinking about it."

Regardless, this is a golden age in Atlantic 11 hair, with Roy Hibbert, Bambale Osby and Jordan Carter embracing various levels of 'fros, and Greivis Vasquez shaving patterns into his face, and now this. Are you wondering how Travis became the team barber? Wonder no more.

"I just picked it up," he said. "I started cutting my own because I didn't like going to the barber shop. You never know how somebody's gonna cut your hair. So if you cut your own hair, you know what you like. I usually ask [the Hokies] what they want. It works better. Saves 'em money, too."

Future career choice?

"I don't know about that, but at least I can cut my own kids' hair," he said.

Oh, and have you noticed that since he joined Greenberg and Wilbon in baldness, Washington has been wearing a headband across the meat of the head, several inches back from the headband sweetspot, making the band look like it's a large maroon scrunchee playfully holding back his imaginary pony tail, perfect for a summer cruise on a windswept river, but kind of pointless for a bald hoopster? Washington was hearing much the same from the Maryland crowd last night.

"I didn't know that was going to be that much of a problem," he said. "It just keeps me warm."

Come again?

"I'm still getting used to not having my hair," he explained. "My head gets cold during the games, so I put it on top of my head to keep it warm. It gets cold. I didn't know my head got that cold without the hair."

Well, let me welcome to the ranks of the cold-headed, Deron. Now just see if you can convince your exceedingly bald coach to start wearing a headband.

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 21, 2008; 4:54 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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