LARAMIE – As the University of Wyoming closed out nonconference play last week in front of a national television audience at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, there was no shortage of love for all-tournament selection Hunter Maldonado, powerful post presence Graham Ike or head coach Jeff Linder, the architect behind the Cowboys’ 11-2 start.

ESPNU couldn’t keep its cameras off the UW bench, either.

Throughout the week, the creative sideline celebrations from John Grigsby, Cort Roberson, Ben Bowen and Nate Barnhart received constant attention – whether it be posing in unison after a made 3-pointer or creating a makeshift bed for a teammate to plop into following a pivotal play.

Admittedly, Linder is no choreographer. Therefore, he leaves the dance moves and bench festivities to the group known as the “Blue Collar Boys,” who have found a way to impact the Cowboys in a positive way, even if they aren’t on the court.

“That’s not my area of expertise,” Linder said. “As we call them, the BCBs – it’s kind of taken on a life of its own. Those guys get more ESPN time than anybody else around here, and it’s a credit to those guys. They bring a lot of energy, and they’re a big part of our program and what we do.”

In addition to playing lockdown defense and testing teams with a lethal inside-out attack on offense, the Pokes take pride in bringing more energy than their opponent on a nightly basis.

This starts with the guys at the end of the bench – whether they’re playing in a raucous environment or in front of a sparse crowd like in Hawaii.

“During the game, that’s our whole job,” Grigsby said. “We just really try to keep the guys engaged and energized, especially in games like at Hawaii, where there aren’t that many fans in the stands. That’s a really big thing we pride ourselves on, just keeping the guys having more energy than the other team. That’s all we can control when we aren’t in the game, so we love that and take a lot of pride in that.”

Added Linder: “That’s what we’re about. We watch the bench as much as we watch what goes on on the floor. For those guys on the bench, and especially the guys that aren’t playing this year ... they just provide great energy. At any point in time, we want to be the team that has the most juice. We pride ourselves on that. Those guys know we’re watching, and they know we’re going to hold them accountable to it.”

The celebrations that energize the Cowboys and have become somewhat of a college basketball phenomenon might appear to be spur of the moment fun on the surface, but there’s much more to it than that.

On the road, the BCBs will meet at the team hotel to go over and practice their moves before heading to the arena. For home games at the Arena-Auditorium, they come out to the court roughly two hours before tipoff and do the same thing. Roberson has a lengthy list of celebrations stored in his phone, and the group picks about five to use each game.

They went by the “Construction Crew” last year, but Grigsby wasn’t feeling the nickname. After listening to country artist Luke Combs’ “Blue Collar Boys” during the offseason, though, he found the inspiration for their new moniker – and one that’s caught on like wildfire among Cowboy Nation.

“They’re awesome,” junior guard Kenny Foster said. “Their energy is fantastic, their celebrations are hilarious, just everything about them. They’re great personalities, great people, and on the court, they have your back 110% of the time.”

For all the attention focused on the bench celebrations, senior guard Hunter Maldonado says the group’s greatest impact comes on the practice court.

“It honestly starts at practice,” Maldonado says. “They’re our scout team and go through the other team’s plays, and they always give us a good look. When we get to game time, they’ve helped us prepare for that. Then, them bringing that energy off the bench is something that’s huge …

“I don’t know how it is at other places – this is the only place I’ve been – but it’s been a huge emphasis. They’re the ones that get you ready. The better look they can give, the better prepared you’ll be.”

Typically, star players have been the ones to reap the benefits of the NCAA’s new name, image and likeness rules, but the “Blue Collar Boys” might be getting in on the action in the near future, as well. Grigsby says plans to release BCB-themed merchandise are currently in the works.

As cool as it would be to have Cowboys fans donning such attire, though, Grigsby is even more looking forward to the possibility of showcasing their contributions for all of college basketball to see at the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s something we were just talking about a couple days ago,” Grigsby said. “That would be amazing to be able to go and showcase that … What our bench is, it’s a representation of the culture in this program.

“To be able to show the culture Coach Linder and his staff has put in, and to show the work all of our guys put in on the national stage really is the ultimate goal. We just have to keep working, and hopefully that comes to fruition here in a couple months.”

Josh Criswell covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at jcriswell@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @criswell_sports.

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