Bench Press

From Handshakes to Hassling Their Opponents, the Bears' Reserves Give an Inside Peek Into the Life of a Bench Player

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Lara Brucker/File


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Being stuck on the bench is like purgatory. To some, it might be closer to hell. There is an indescribable pain that accompanies watching your team from the sidelines and not being able to play.

So why then does it seem that every time the camera pans over to the Bears' bench, they seem to be laughing, high-fiving, chatting about who-knows-what?

How are they making this hell home?

They talk a lot. They yell to their teammates. And they talk some more.

"Sometimes bench players think they know what players should be doing, so we like to talk," says Harper Kamp, who is redshirting this year due to injury. "We're not always right. But that doesn't stop us."

The women's team pokes plenty of fun at its starters.

"We make fun of some girls," Tierra Rogers says, her use of "some" meaning more like "every." "If it's a bad call, then we make fun of the refs. If the game is boring, we get off topic. We have a lot of inside jokes."

But it's not all about talking smack; freshman Eliza Pierre says that when Lauren Greif is on the bench, it's as if she's a sixth man on defense.

"When the ball goes into the corner, L.G. will stand behind the girl and say all kinds of stuff like, 'Don't you shoot. Don't you do it. That's right. Pass it. You better listen,'" Pierre says. "She's always cracking me up."

And it's not only the players who are cracking jokes during games. Men's coach Mike Montgomery isn't making those trips up and down the bench just to teach.

"(Montgomery will) come down and make a joke because he likes to think he's funny," Kamp says. "He'll come down and say all kinds of things. It's not rated G, so it's probably not for the Daily Cal. But it's a lot of sarcasm."

Don't let their sense of humor fool you-they're also nice to each other on the bench, well, sort of. Rogers says the bench players have only one tradition: Everyone closes their eyes when Talia Caldwell (a 23.1 percent free throw shooter) is at the line.

But even with all the teasing, both benches are in solidarity with one another down to the point of matching outfits.

Kamp and Rogers appointed themselves in charge of picking out what their fellow injured and inactives wear for the games. Rogers prefers gray warm-up pants and black shirt, while Kamp errs more on the classy side. But there is a problem with that.

"Not everyone has matching shirts and ties, so it's tough to do suits every night" Kamp says. "Not everyone has the same clothing selection as Pat (Christopher)."

Speaking of Christopher, it seems that one of the most important parts of being a good bench teammate is developing choreographed handshakes with the starters.

Every year, Kamp and Christopher have had a new handshake. But the collaborative effort got a little stale nearing the end of the season so-as Kamp said-you have to let Pat be Pat.

"He's the brains behind the whole thing," Kamp says. "I told him get in the lab. Come up with a new one. So he got in the lab. Now we got it."

Rogers' favorite handshake is with Eliza Pierre and it happens to be bit of an adaptation of the Cleveland Cavaliers' posed photo routine.

After Pierre's name is announced during the introductions, she runs up and freezes in three different poses while Rogers snaps photos of her with an imaginary camera.

When the handshakes are through and the game starts, the actual bench sitting begins. For the men, the physical act of sitting in a confined space might be the hardest part of the whole game.

"I struggle out there," Kamp says. "It gets pretty cramped. My knee gets tight, so I gotta stretch it. We try to share seats, but there's always an extra one, so we fight over that."

And what's the best part of the bench for Kamp? Getting off of it.

"I've been sick of it since the day I got there," Kamp says. "No offense to Nik (Knezevic, who he sits next to), but I'm tired of him. I gotta get back out there."

For Rogers, who has a medical condition that prevents her from ever playing again, she plans to find a home on the sidelines for good.

"I'm on the bench trying to learn more about the game, the plays and the players," Rogers said. "I really want to be a coach someday."

Tags: JAMAL BOYKIN, CAL MEN'S BASKETBALL, CAL WOMEN'S BASKETBALL, MARCH MADNESS 2010, BENCH PLAYERS


Contact Joseph Cannon at [email protected]



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