An observer of the UCLA bench this season could gauge the Bruins'
lead in a game by watching what freshman Kris Johnson did with a
small white towel. Bruins up with less than three minutes to go:
Johnson draped the towel over his head, letting the edges rest on
his shoulders. Bruins ahead significantly: He tied the corners at
the back of his head, making the towel a 'do-rag. Game in the bag
with time expiring: Johnson had one towel on his head and another
over his nose, mouth and chin, leaving only his eyes exposed, for
a look he called the Terrorist. ``When I'm in the Terrorist, the
game is over,'' says Johnson.
The Terrorist look was prevalent this season as the Bruins won 31
games, 21 by double digits, giving Johnson ample opportunity to
influence fellow reserves Bob Myers and Kevin Dempsey. Each put a
towel over his coif after Charles O'Bannon caught
a floor-length pass from his brother, Ed, and dunked to put
UCLA up by 12 in the waning minutes of the NCAA title game
However, the belief on the bench was that the championship was
assured because the trio -- known among themselves as the Wrecking
Crew -- sat in their winning alignment: Johnson sandwiched between
Dempsey, on the end, and Myers. Superstitious about the
arrangement, they had guarded their seats during timeouts all
season, paying more attention to preventing teammates from
stealing their places than to the diagrams of coach Jim Harrick.
Against Stanford on Feb. 21, Myers and Johnson switched places,
with disastrous results. ``They went on an 11-0 run,'' Johnson
says. ``We won, but only because Bob and I switched back.''
Also sitting on the bench, in no specific order, were two members
of the All-Name team: sophomore Ikenna (Ike) Chukuemeka Nwankwo
(pronounced Na-WONK- wo) and freshman omm'A Givens. Nwankwo is of
Nigerian descent, and Givens's name is a combination of the Hindu
mantra om and the letter A, chosen by his late father, Roger.
All five reserves played at least six minutes in the Bruins'
92-56 trouncing of Florida International in the opening round of
the NCAA tournament, and Johnson scored 10 points. But they all
took a seat -- and stayed there -- during the championship game,
after which Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said, ``Without Tyus
Edney, UCLA is six players and a bunch of guys with towels on
their heads.'' Maybe so, but now they're also a bunch of guys
with rings on their fingers.
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON If victory was in sight, the face of Johnson (with, from left, Givens, Nwankwo, Myers, Dempsey) wasn't. [Kris Johnson, omm'A Givens, Ikenna (Ike) Chukuemeka Nwankwo,Bob Myers and Kevin Dempsey sitting on bench]