Kaun's 'wild-man' locks drawing attention

Senior center's hair sparks ribbing from teammates, coach, but he intends to keep curly 'do

Friday, October 26, 2007

There's always at least one of them at Kansas University men's basketball games: A picture of Ivan Drago in reference to Sasha Kaun's Russian roots - along with his large stature.

No longer does Kaun sport a clean-cut hair style that correlates with the fictional Russian boxer from "Rocky IV" however.

He's gone for a little bit more messy look.

"When he had it shorter everybody felt like Sasha's more like a Marine from Russia, and now he has all curls and wears his shades," senior teammate Darnell Jackson said. "We call him a 'pretty boy.' So Sasha's the 'pretty boy' on the team."

The new hairdo may cause the images of Drago around Allen Fieldhouse to be supplanted by images of one of television's most loved teenage nerds.

"You mean Screech?" KU coach Bill Self said, referring to Kaun as the character played by Dustin Diamond in the TV series "Saved By the Bell."

"I like it. I think he needs to do that. I told him, 'Don't cut it.' He looks like kind of a wild man out there, and we need him to be a little bit more of that. He could have been the star of 'Saved By the Bell,' but he's too tall."

The mop, which started out as a simple sign of summer laziness, has begun to grow - no pun intended - on everyone.

"Over the summer you don't really care too much about it, and people started saying it looks good, and I just decided to leave it," Kaun said.

But was laziness really the reason?

"Ladies started to take notice, and I think that was one thing," junior center Matt Kleinmann said.

An interesting statement, considering "Screech" considered himself to be quite the ladies' man on "Saved By the Bell."

"A lot of people were saying 'curls for girls' and stuff like that, but that wasn't my intention," Kaun said.

With the new look has come plenty of joking from teammates, though not always in front of the 6-foot-11, 250 pound center.

"I never told him, but I've said it's like curly fries or something like that," senior guard Rodrick Stewart said. "But to be honest, it's a cool look now because it makes him look a lot taller than he is. He's already tall, but it makes him look like a true seven-footer now."

The consensus from Kaun's fellow senior classmates is positive, but the increase of hair on Kaun's head has one freshman fretting that he'll no longer have the longest locks on the team.

"The thing with Sasha is he has the curly hair, so you can't really tell how long it is until you pull it out," guard Conner Teahan said. "He has some long hair, but I don't know if he has me - I think I have some long hair. But I don't know. If he keeps this up, he may blow me away."

In the end, however, the decision to keep the new look - which Kaun said he intends to do - may be most influenced by his mother.

"She saw a picture and asked me, 'What the heck is that about?'" Kaun quipped. "No, actually she said she liked it."

Kaun hopes more than his hairdo gets him noticed in this, his senior season. He figures to improve on his 5.9 scoring and 3.8 rebounding marks of a year ago.

"He has to be a consistent 12-point, seven-rebound guy for us," Self said. "He has shown signs. The first game his sophomore year he goes for 25 (points) and 16 (rebounds against Idaho State).

"Really he has had as good a career as anybody on our team, 3.5 student (in Computer Science), will graduate easily in four years. The only setback he had was two summers in a row he was inactive because of injuries and going home. It set back his development a little bit, especially his lower body strength. But he is coming off a great summer and spring. He's been very impressive."

Kaun - he's one of five scholarship seniors on this year's team - wants to go out on top.

"Things are going good. We are a lot more mature than we have been since I've been here," Kaun said. "My freshman year we had a mature team (with seniors Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles, Mike Lee and Keith Langford) but we still had a lot of freshmen. This year we bring everybody back except JuJu (Julian Wright). We are all a year older, and with five seniors on this team it'll be a great opportunity for us to get some big things accomplished."

¢Recruiting note: J'Mison Morgan, 6-10 from Dallas, will make an unofficial visit to Baylor this weekend, Rivals.com reports. Morgan will choose either KU, LSU, UCLA, Alabama, Cincinnati or Baylor on Nov. 2.