Basketball player to cut hair for purpose

During his five years on the University of Indianapolis men’s basketball team, senior forward Brennan McElroy has been maturing, learning and creating bonds. He credits his journey as a model citizen to his time for the last five years on the basketball team.

“I think I’ve grown in all aspects of everything,” McElroy said. “As a player I’ve learned so much. I’ve grown as a friend. I’ve made so many good friends here it’s unbelievable. Then on and off the court, I’ve been in good hands with these coaches, learning stuff, doing a bunch of volunteer work, getting into the community.”

Not only has McElroy grown as a basketball player but he has taken on his own journey inspired by something that has hit everyone. Three years ago he started growing out his hair in a way to pay tribute to family members that have died of cancer.

“I’ve lost several family members to cancer and I just figured it was a pretty easy thing to do just growing it out, helping someone out down the line,” McElroy said. “…I decided three years ago to do it and [have] stuck with it.”

McElroy never made a spectacle of his decision. He quietly let his hair get long. Not even Head Men’s Basketball Coach Stan Gouard was aware of the reasons McElroy’s hair continued to lengthen each season.

“I remember having a conversation [with the team] a couple of years ago about cutting your hair, but he did a good job of keeping it in,” Gouard said. “Once it came out, he is the type of guy that doesn’t want much attention, but he’s garnering attention. I think it’s great.”

According to Gouard, this type of cause is what motivates a player to do their best on and off the court. For him, the way McElroy handles himself is what he looks for in players.

“Everybody has a story. Everybody has a background,” Gouard said. “Whether he is playing for his family member or another guy is playing for his family member, I think it’s special. You’ve got to have something to motivate and drive you to be successful. I coach every day for the love of the game, but I also do it and work hard for my wife and daughter who I am supporting.”

Even though McElroy has no short term plans to cut his hair for donation, he knows that most people are curious and have taken notice. During the season, opposing teams also took notice. Both McElroy and Gouard said that fan sections and teams would poke fun at his appearance and use it to heckle the fifth-year senior.

“He controlled his emotions really well when people yelled obscene gestures at him during play,” Gouard said. “He did a great job. I think it motivated and pushed him. What he’s doing is for a great cause, and when he cuts it, [that] is up to him. But it is a great cause, and not many people find ways to honor their loved ones in the way he does.”

According to McElroy, this type of control was cultivated through practice and a tight knit atmosphere with the team. He said that all negative comments, whether aimed at him or not, motivated the team to quiet the crowds with the score board.

“The best way to just go out there and prove them wrong, is to show it on the scoreboard,” he said. “There’s no better feeling than all of their fans leaving at half time because their team is getting beat so bad. Granted, I applaud those fans for coming out to the games and making noise. It’s a great atmosphere to play in, especially at Bellarmine [University]. It’s a lot of fun playing against opposing fans.”

Both McElroy and Gouard said that they attribute much of their success to the support of the campus community at UIndy.

“[I want to say thank you to] all of my coaches, players, staff, the campus community and all of the support we’ve got [from everyone]. With success comes not fame, but notoriety,” McElroy said. “I’ve heard faculty come up and congratulate me, and people around campus [congratulate me as well]. So [because of that, I say] thank you to their support, along with my family and the other player’s families that traveled with us.”