They might break it down dancing before a game, fall into someone’s arms jokingly after a big play, or find another way to cheer on their teammates.
That, in a nutshell, is this year’s freshmen class. Guard Ria Gulley and forwards Bre Wickware and Darby Foresman have taken bench celebrations to a whole other level. Last season in men’s basketball, Monmouth was made famous for its bench celebrations. This year on the women’s side, IU’s reserves have taken that role on and run with it.
IU Coach Teri Moren called out the bench after a December win against Northern Kentucky. Ever since then, the bench has taken it upon itself to rile up teammates with crazy celebrations. The rest of the team enjoys it, the crowd gets into it, and the freshmen all have fun doing it.
“I think we just are super energetic as it is,” Foresman said. “When we have energy on the bench, it carries over to the game. Especially, whoever is playing, it gets them going too.”
The production on the court hasn’t necessarily been there from the Hoosier bench players, but that may be OK, because what they do to rile up their teammates shows how close this team has become.
Moren intentionally set up the schedule to play a lot of road games in the nonconference part of the schedule. The Hoosiers went through a stretch of five out of six games on the road. It was a grind. At the time Moren said she wanted to get this group closer and now looking back on it, she said she likes how it turned out.
When a team is on the road, it is almost forced to become closer simply based on the sheer fact the players are in hotels and together nearly the entire time. The freshmen appear to be comfortable, and it’s showing, junior guard Tyra Buss said.
“We kind of build off of their energy,” Buss said. “To see them on the bench getting hype for us and getting really excited, shows a lot for our team. They are really excited for us, happy for us, and that’s how it should be. Not only the players on the floor, but the people on the bench have to be happy too and they have to bring that energy.”
For some members of the bench and freshman class, being energetic comes naturally. Moren says it is common of Foresman and Wickware to be a source of energy. As for Gulley, not so much. The guard from San Antonio, Texas, has put together a solid freshman campaign, maybe the most impressive of the three. She was in the starting lineup at the start of the season and against Michigan two weeks ago, but has embraced her role on the bench.
When the bench celebrations started for IU, it was Gulley leading the way. Her teammates followed, and it’s caught on. Moren said Gulley thrives under the lights of her home court.
“It’s funny, when the lights come on at Assembly Hall there’s another Ria Gulley that appears,” Moren said. “We don’t get to see that side of her often because she’s in practice and if you travel with her, on the bus, playing with her, she’s very stoic. Most of the time she’s asleep, she loves her sleep. There’s something about her being at Assembly Hall because she doesn’t bring that type of energy on the road.”
As the team gets set for the home stretch of the season, they will not only rely on its big three to get them to the NCAA Tournament. The energy off of the bench will play a part. The contributions from the freshman group have not gone unnoticed.
“The freshmen have been really big,” Buss said. “They have grown this year and I’m really proud of them and how they’ve developed. They’re really coming along and really helping us deep into this season.”
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