CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - No matter how the season ends, it has been a memorable year for the Cleveland State Men’s Basketball team. The players on the court lead the Vikings to the Horizon League regular season championship. Their bench players have also played a key role, especially their bench captains. “It’s a position for us,” said head coach Dennis Gates. “It’s very important.”
Junior Ben Sternberg and Sophomore Jeremy Sanchez are the bench captains. They are pretty busy during a game. “If I see guys down, I’ll tell them to pick their heads up,” said Sanchez. “If I sense Coach Gates is going to put somebody in soon I’ll tell them to get ready.”
Sternberg is also not afraid to use his voice. A lot. “80-90 percent of the games I’ve lost my voice. I come back and call my mom on the phone and she can’t even understand what I’m saying,” said Sternberg. He tries to talk less on days they have a game to save his pipes.
“When you build that energy, that level five energy we speak of, you have to have leadership on that bench,” said Gates. He has always deployed bench captains, but they have been even more of a boost when no there are no fans in the stands.
This is not a job the players take lightly. It can be exhausting. “It can definitely feel like that, " said Sanchez. “We’ve had a lot of close games this season and the nerves set in, the adrenaline sets in, you might feel like you played more than you did.” Yes, they do get in games at times too, they are real basketball players. They just have bench duties as well. “It’s a role [Coach Gates] placed on us and we take it very, very seriously,” said Sternberg. “It’s like being on the court because we are helping the team win.”
Gates firmly believes his “Bench Mob”, as they call themselves, will impact a game, even when fans return. This concept is not going anywhere, but the Vikings, just might be going somewhere in March Madness.