When I think of Jake Layman's hair — and I think of it often, especially now, with those golden locks primped for their final appearance at Xfinity Center before turning pro and becoming eligible for various hair-product-related endorsements — I come back to the most hair-raising moment of his Maryland men's basketball career.
On Feb. 4, 2015, the Terps were leading Penn State in College Park 39-36. The Nittany Lions turned the ball over on a fast break. Dez Wells took a pass from Melo Trimble. Donovon Jack, bless his heart, raced back to the paint. Wells jumped, and Jack jumped not as high, and the ensuing dunk became proof of kinetic energy's potential as a power source, for a burst of electricity, undetectable but very real, surged through Xfinity Center. People were jumping, players were yelling, a buzz was building.
And there stood Layman, nary a hair out of place, his elegant part still stylist-approved.
Layman, the player, has evolved (certainly not always to everyone's liking) since his arrival as a four-star recruit in 2012. He has been an inconsistent freshman; a much-improved sophomore; a junior flirting with the NBA; and now a senior who can lock down just about all comers, knock down nearly half of his shots but still not shut up his critics.
Layman, the hair model, has been through similar iterations. But the mania over his mane predates his emergence on a team bound for its second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
There were humble beginnings, to be sure. I can't prove this, but I think BABC stands for "Buttoned-up, Agreeable Buzz Cuts."
Thanks to colleague Jeff Barker, we can remember that Layman came to Maryland looking like Sunshine in "Remember the Titans."
This presented problems beyond the normal fare. For as good as his Young Leonardo DiCaprio 'do looked on the court, it could make the odds of hitting a jump shot bad. He told The Washington Post in 2012 that his amber waves could get in the way occasionally.
"There's a reason he was rated so high and recruited so hard," coach Mark Turgeon said then. "Now if I could get him to get a haircut."
As the Terps moved from Atlantic Coast Conference middleweight to Big Ten Conference power over his career, his good-hair days have remained a reliable constant, a bedrock of broadcasts, a pillar of photographs, unmoved by light shooting ...
... or heavy lifting ...
... or restrained revelry.
Melo Trimble's pileous* pursuits might have captured the attention of the greater college basketball community, and Odell Beckham Jr., but before Thursday's send-off against Illinois, it would be a shame to overlook substance for style.
"He came in wide-eyed and with his long floppy hair," Varun Ram (River Hill), Layman's fellow senior, told Rivals.com. "But he's come a long way in terms of maturity, and his game has evolved."
Yes, this Terps team can make you want to pull out your own hair at times. But change for the better is still possible. One need only look at the Jake Layman of 2011. If that Jake Layman could realize his potential as a future Dove Men+Care pitchman, who's to say he can't yet unlock Maryland's Final Four destiny?
* Pileous means "of or relating to hair," and if you're wondering whether I looked that word up just for this blog post, you're darn right I did. Writing about hair is hard work. It requires patience and a thesaurus.