Caleb Lohner has not only committed to BYU on paper, but he’s found another way to show his commitment to the Cougars following a release from Utah that left Larry Krystkowiak blindsided.
Shortly after tweeting his decision to instead play for the Utes’ archrival, fans questioned whether the 6-foot-9 power forward would be able to keep his long golden locks. BYU’s Dress and Grooming standards within the Honor Code wouldn’t allow for Lohner to keep his hair as is, which was shoulder-length throughout much of his time at Wasatch Academy.
The day after signing with BYU, Lohner got a haircut. His curls are still intact, but instead are several inches shorter and don't go down past his chin.
“I understood that I couldn’t keep my super long hair, but at the same time I cut it a little shorter … it also shows I’m just ready to commit to this program and I’m ready to be a student-athlete at BYU,” Lohner said.
Hair wasn’t the only topic of conversation being brought up online. Lohner’s surprising move to BYU brought up murmurings of possible tampering by coach Mark Pope and his staff in Provo.
However, Lohner was quick to squash those rumors, saying “it is false. It’s not true.”
Back in November, when he signed his NLI with Utah, Lohner said he felt like he wasn’t choosing what he wanted to do.
Lohner was dealing with personal issues, some involving family members, and didn't feel he was in the best state of mind at the time.
“There’s just certain things, different factors going on in my life that caused me to make that [decision],” Lohner said. “And then gradually throughout the year, I kind of thought about that decision and then ultimately made the choice of where I wanted to go.”
And for those thinking maybe Lohner's father had any sort of influence on his son, Lohner said that wasn't the case either.
Matt Lohner played at BYU for Roger Reid in 1991-92 and 1994-96 and yes, Lohner’s parents are active members in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but Lohner said his father has been nothing but supportive throughout the process.
“He’s been great with both [schools],” Lohner said.
Lohner initially committed to Utah August 21, 2019, later signing with the Utes on Nov. 13 of last year. Because he committed early, the news that he wanted to be released came as a bigger shock, and has left Krystkowiak now scrambling to fill that roster spot amid a pandemic.
“It was just a gradual process and I had to come to peace with the decision that I was making, and then ultimately Utah wasn’t that choice,” Lohner said.
On June 15, Lohner was granted the release and signed with BYU 11 days later.
But looking back, BYU was the first school to make an offer — on July 21, 2017, according to 247Sports.
While the offer came from then-coach Dave Rose, Pope continued recruiting Lohner in high school after the former Utah Valley coach took over the BYU program in April of 2018.
Even though it took some time to have his release request granted, Lohner said he didn’t speak to Pope again until after he was officially released and entered the transfer portal.
While there were many factors that made BYU appealing, Lohner said the one that stood out the most was the program’s recent success.
BYU made its return to the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in nine years, and finished the 2019-20 season (24-8 overall; 13-3 WCC) with a final ranking of No. 18. The Cougars were also poised to return to the NCAA Tournament before the pandemic canceled March Madness.
“There’s a lot of juice in the program right now,” Lohner said. “Coach Pope’s doing a great job of getting guys and getting the team to buy in to what he’s coaching. Just by the season they had last year, and the way they played together, I think we can have a really good year this year, too.”
For any other high school athletes struggling to find the right college to continue their playing career at, Lohner hopes they really think about their decision and choose where they want to go.
“At the end of the day, this is your commitment — nobody else’s,” Lohner said. “And you’re going to be at this school for a certain amount of time. Wherever you feel happiest, wherever you feel like you can be successful, you’ve got to follow your heart.”
As far as his upcoming career at BYU, Lohner hopes to bring excitement to the program and fans.
Pope believes Lohner has a ready-made college body, a deadly stroke and an intense competitiveness — the last of which the second-year coach expects to become the hallmark of Lohner’s BYU career.
“He is going to bring a unique persona and swagger to Provo that will endear him to Cougar fans,” Pope said. “Caleb has lofty aspirations for his basketball career and a steely determination that will help him reach those goals with his teammates here at BYU.”
Speaking of persona and swag, recently graduated Zac Seljaas led the hair game for the Cougars during his tenure at BYU. While now clean shaven and sporting bleached blonde hair, the beloved former reserve sported a highlighted mohawk/mullet hybrid hairstyle and heavy mustache his senior year.
Could Lohner become an instant fan favorite with his own signature look? Possibly.
“We’ll see,” Lohner said. “I mean, I’ve got my own certain type of swag and we’ll see how I can do some of that.”