While watching the Marist men’s basketball home opener, I turned to Center Field Editor-in-Chief, Will Bjarnar, and asked, “Are basketball players tall, or is it just their hair?” Like Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, this was the question that launched a time consuming, tedious, and in-depth investigation. So…are basketball players tall? Or is it really just their hair?
Height is a calling card in basketball. I’m not naive to such a fact. The shortest active players in the NBA — Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Ulis, 5-feet-8-inches — aren’t even short by my standards. But I wonder where the measurement stops. I wonder if those behind the tape measurers stop at the top of the skull, or account for hairstyle. Consider Gordon Hayward, for example: the Boston Celtics forward measures in at 6-feet-8-inches. But are we accounting for that… fwoosh on top of his head?
That’s an extra inch, easily. We need answers. I started asking questions.
To begin, I broke down the true heights of professional, NCAA, and specifically, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) men’s basketball players.
The national average height of a collegiate basketball player is 6 feet 3 inches. The average height of basketball players competing in MAAC is 6 feet 4.5 inches, proving that these athletes are, in fact, tall. Every team in the MAAC — with the exception of Niagara University, which sits exactly at the national average — is collectively taller than the NCAA average. The tallest team in the MAAC, Canisius, towers half an inch over the rest of the MAAC at an average height of 6 feet 5.5 inches. No team’s average height is taller than the average professional basketball player, who towers over most at 6 feet 7 inches. However, the two tallest men in the MAAC — Seth Pinkney of Quinnipiac and Majur Majak of Saint Peter’s — would have to look down at the professionals, as they stand at 7 feet 1 inch.
So basketball players are tall, that much is true. But so is a lot of their hair. In order to find out more, I did some digging and compiled a list of the 32 men in the MAAC with hair that significantly adds to their height. They were then divided into bracket positions after being assigned numbers through a random number generator. And through the mathematically correct gauge known as “eyeballing it,” the March Madness of hair began.
Side One, Round One
The first match is between Zion Tordoff of Marist and Caleb Green of Fairfield. The 5-foot-10-inch junior from Fairfield is a strong opponent, but I mean, come on. Zion’s contained and stylized poof adds significantly to his already lofty 6-foot-8-inch measurement. The Englishman triumphs.
Next up: Matthew Glassman of Manhattan against Manny Camper of Siena. While Glasmann rocks a sleek updo, Camper shines with the au naturel style. A point to the vet. The Saint moves on.
Although Niagara’s freshman, Waterman, may have seven inches on the junior, Benning, my mathematical system of eyeballing it concludes that his hair falls just an inch or two short. Benning to continue on.
Perez is the lone Iona-rep in this bracket, and he falls in this faceoff — rather hairoff. This one goes to Hinckson. Perez’s new coach (that would be one Rick Pitino) knows a thing or two about primping; perhaps he can provide gel tips for next year.
On deck are Mark Henry of Fairfield and Jordan King of Siena. Both freshmen are from the state of New York, with only one inch of height separating them. There’s no rule against the gel technique; Henry’s use here propels him forward. A good inch and a half gets tacked on, as he moves on.
With only one other teammate in the first 32, Solomon is Niagara’s final hope of making it to the next round. However, Rider’s 6-foot-8-inch sophomore has hair that simply won’t back down. By my eyeball, we have a two-inch addition (at least). Ogemuno-Johnson advances.
Not much competition here. Brandon has the advantage. Hein is the play-in team that’s just grateful to have been a part of the big dance.
The final showing for round one, side one, came between Khalil Turner of Rider and Mike James Jr. of Monmouth. Both had their guards (ha-ha) up for this battle. And boy, is it close. I’d give the slight edge to Turner, though, as those loose-ish curls atop his flat top provide a millimeter that may have just been the difference. Turner is the final side one competitor we’ll see advancing to round two.
Tordoff vs. Camper: Those frosted tips really elevate his look and the length of his hair. Tordoff again. Siena is out of the tournament. “Marist over Siena” … an unfamiliar three word phrase with a ring to it.
Benning vs. Hinckson: Wow. This is a nail biter. Do we go for height throughout or the overall peak? Overall? No? Peak? Ok, peak. Benning advances.
Henry vs. Ogemuno-Johnson: Seniority and hair length avail. Henry’s cut; his hair’s cutting it just short (*drum drum drum symbol*). It’s Ogemuno-Johnson maintaining course.
Brandon vs. Turner: With a name like Majesty, royalty is bound to prevail. Long live the king! Brandon advances.
Tordoff vs. Benning: With a matchup for the ages, not to mention one with historical parameters (okay, it’s a stretch, but look at what we’re doing here), we find history repeating itself. The American beats the Englishman. Benning to the semifinals.
Ogemuno-Johnson vs. Brandon: LONG LIVE THE KING. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Should I link a song?
It came down to Benning and Brandon, our final competitors from side one. Will the King, our Majesty, take the crowd? He wins here; we’ll find out about the big crown in the finals. Here’s where I link a song, sing it with me now!
Side Two, Round One
Jones is the first competitor from St. Peter’s we’ve seen so far in this tournament and one of two graduate students in the competition, sharing that title with Hein. Three of his teammates will be joining him shortly. But will they be joining him in round two? Jones advances.
Two PHENOMENAL heads of hair, here. This is actually unfair. Who seeded this thing? It possesses huge Texas vs. Northern Iowa in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament energy. But we’re looking for height. It’s Estrada.
Does fashion help with hair height at all? Johnson’s headband in any other competition would put him a head up. But that won’t apply here. Height can’t be faked. Ings advances.
I mean, this is obvious. Tyler Saint-Furcy’s hair isn’t even tall, right? You might be asking, what was I thinking? Let me tell you: Saint-Furcy was sporting a different hairstyle during the Marist home opener when I first, mentally, selected him for this. He will not be advancing further than this, but during that game, his hair made this 6-foot-4-inch freshman stand at least 6 feet 7 inches.
Will Tyler Sagl, Marist’s last standing man bring home the win? No. Banks III was too strong a competitor. He actually won by a landslide. Keep an eye out for him going forward.
Balanc’s one inch deficit — he’s 6 feet 3 inches — and Hammond’s one year of seniority could lead to the hairiest battle of the year. You know I had to. Anyway, Hammond continues.
Let’s hear it for the freshman guards! This battle of the rookies, once again brings up the question of fashion, with yet another player rocking a headband (my next piece: Canisius is hands down the most fashionable school in the tournament). This time, fashion does prevail. Ahemed advances in style.
Round one comes to an end with a matchup between Donovan Toatley of Monmouth and Jack Higgins of Quinnipiac. Toatley — 5 feet 9 inches, the shortest player in the conference — is still taller than the average American (5 feet 4 inches). Even with his locks raising him close to the six foot range, it’s not enough to beat out Higgins. And that doesn’t even look like gel. It might be a natural elevation. Kudos.
Jones vs. Estrada: This is the first teammate-on-teammate faceoff. Men who usually play side by side are now competitors. But again, come on. It’s Estrada. He’s coasting.
Ings vs. Pinkney: These two men have some of the tallest hair in the field. But we have yet another “come on.” LOOK AT PINKNEY’S HAIR.
Banks III vs. Hammond: Who will guard their current standing best? The junior? The rookie? On the off chance, Banks III moves on as youth trumps inexperience.
Ahemed vs. Higgins: The stylish freshman comes out on top once again, beating his opponent and looking good while doing it. Ahemed will compete in the quarterfinals.
Only four men left until we find out who will go up against (our) Majesty.
Estrada vs. Pinkney: Think Wisconsin-Kentucky from 2015. The level of talent on that floor… Estrada’s hair, for analogous purposes, will be Karl Anthony-Towns. The best player on his team by a mile; just not the best on the floor. Pinkney, again, for analogous purposes, is our Frank Kaminsky here. He advances.
Banks III vs. Ahemed: Will Banks III be taking this win to the bank? Oof, that joke was rough. And so was his loss; Ahemed advances.
I think we all know who’s ready to challenge the King. Frank Kaminsky, meet Jahlil Okafor. Don’t screw it up this time.
Pinkney vs. Brandon: It all comes down to this. The only bracket we’ll get this season comes to an end. Does it feel too soon? I wish we had more. While these men worked hard to grow their locks, they also all competed incredibly well on and off the court this season. They may not have completed their championship tournament, but they’ve made the championships here.
In the end, the King has fallen. His reign has come to an end at the hands of the conference’s tallest man. By my wildly specific and mathematical eyeballing technique, I’ve deemed Sir Seth Pinkney the kingdom’s new… well, King. Sometimes, your name can only lend you supremacy for so long. Sir Pinkney: I knight thee tallest/best hair in the MAAC. Congratulations!
Throughout this investigation, I spent many hours looking at the headshots of the men of MAAC basketball and have come to one other, final conclusion: Gary Harris Jr. of Siena has the best smile in the MAAC. This has been my favorite honor to bestow.
Cue “One Shining Moment!”
So does this really matter? No. Are there awards? Not currently, but they can be made upon request. So what’s the point? Well, as my deputy editor-in-chief Lily Caffrey-Levine put it “this is what you get when an art history major writes about sports.”
*This is based entirely off the roster photos on the team’s websites (with the exception of Tyler Saint-Furcy of Marist in the first few games of the season). This may not be an accurate representation of current hairstyles.
**I stand at a respectable 5 feet and 3 inches. It’s possible I just wish I was taller.
Edited by Will Bjarnar and Lily Caffrey-Levine