Liz Cambage is one unique basketball player. Aside from her stature that makes her stand out in a crowd, the rookie has some quirky and quaint rituals and routines that can be seen when she takes to the court.
Most noticeable to the fans is her uniform tucked into her compression shorts underneath.
“It’s like I’ve got this phobia of my shorts touching my knees when I shoot, Cambage said. I can never wear baggy shorts and so I’m always (tucking them in). I fold [the upper band] as well. I don’t know it’s just weird. It’s a habit. You can still see the symbol when I do it, so I don’t get in trouble.”
Another outward quirk that can be seen on the court is her hair. Her modern hairstyle with the underneath shaved is something that Liz has to regularly maintain. But unlike her every-game upkeep in Australia, here she just gets a re-do once a week.
“Back at home I get my mum to like shave my head before every game. She does it for me outside. We only play on weekends when I’m home in Australia, but we play here like every day,” Cambage said, explaining her style.
Cambage has matching requirements when it comes to her footwear, another of her list of superstitions.
“I always have to wear the same color shoes, socks and ankle braces. I didn’t wear ankle braces [at the all-star game] because I didn’t have orange ankle braces. I taped. And like I had to put black in my shoes (the shoelaces), so I could wear black socks because it just looked wrong.”
Her rituals aren’t limited to appearance, though, as Liz’ game-day eating routine is also practically predetermined.
“I try to eat pancakes every day before a game. Pancakes is my thing,” Cambage said. “Every game day in Tulsa we go to IHOP. In Australia my nana cooks me pancakes. Also, our major sponsor for my team in Australia is Pancake Parlor which is an organic 24 hour pancake place. It’s awesome.
“I do lots of weird things,” she said with a laugh.
Cambage’s superstitions were seen this week at the 2011 WNBA All-Star game, where she was named as a replacement player for the injured Candace Parker by league president, Laurel Richie.
“Knowing that Candace and Lauren were out, I felt that the addition of Liz was a great addition to the team,” Richie said at the All-Star festivities. “You know, she has 14 points a game and 6 rebounds so I think that’s a nice addition to the team.”
The nice addition, as Richie put it, was indeed valuable to the West. Cambage finished her first All-Star game with 13 points and four rebounds in just over 11 minutes. She was 3-for-5 from the field, 7-for-8 from the line and contributed two steals in the losing effort. In fact, of the four rookies that played in San Antonio’s special game Cambage was easily the high-scorer of the group. She was seen having fun in every situation, from her minutes on the court, to helping a fan in a shooting contest to dancing with Angel McCoughtry.
“I was like, yay I’m on the court now,” Cambage said about hearing her name called by head coach Brian Agler. “There’s no pressure just ready to have some fun and be myself. It was just so good. I feel like sometimes it turns into such a job, basketball, and it’s good to get out there and have some fun.”
“She was having fun out there and I was glad to see that,” Tulsa interim head coach Teresa Edwards said. “I think she brought it back – she brought that same type of energy back here and she was willing to work hard. First thing, she was like ‘Coach T when are we getting back in the gym’ the next day.
“I’m excited about where Liz is headed the second half of the season. I’ve just got to keep reminding her that she still has to work hard and grow. It’s not just going to happen to her because she’s 6-8.”
Cambage is back to playing basketball for the sake of fun and not just as a job after a week that started with the end of a road trip in New York and finished with a strong All-Star performance.
“All the losing in the first half of the season really dampened my spirit a bit, I wasn’t myself,” Cambage said. “We had a good break. I got a few days in New York and then the all-star break and I got to learn and got to meet a lot of top players like Lisa Leslie. It was just really amazing being there and I got to bring all the energy back.”
While that energy didn’t translate to a win in Tulsa’s first game since the break, Cambage’s intensity and effort was seen in her 16-point, 5-rebound, 2-block performance against Atlanta on Tuesday.
And good news for the Tulsa organization and its fans, Cambage is ready for the second half of the season.
“It’s exciting being back,” she said with a smile.
Her coach can see that excitement, too. As Edwards said about Liz at the All-Star game, “I thought she was the brightest bulb on the tree.”
She’ll go against fellow rookie and all-star competitor Courtney Vandersloot tonight in Tulsa. Let’s see who’s bulb is shining this evening.