The ‘Bench Mob’, a new kind of team


For the Ashland University men’s basketball team, they have a group of guys who have created the most energy for the team, but will not see a minute of action at all this season.

How can you affect the game if you don’t score, play defense or see any action?

For the Eagles, they have had an entire bench who has been affecting games this whole season and the two masterminds behind this “bench mob” are two best friends, junior Nick Bapst and redshirt junior Jay Slone.

These are two players who have fought through circumstances this year that have kept them off the floor, but that has not kept them from encouraging their team.

For Bapst, the teams’ starting two-guard at the beginning of the season, collapsed while on the bench at the University of Findlay scrimmage on Oct. 25th when he went into cardiac arrest and was in the hospital for weeks afterwards.

Bapst said that he was sad at first that he would not be able to play the game of basketball again, but he is just happy to be with all of the guys and be apart of the bench.

Three weeks after the Findlay scrimmage, Slone, the backup shooting guard behind Bapst, took an awkward fall in practice one morning and broke his foot. An injury that could have been healed within two months, has sidelined Slone for the rest of the season.

“Both of those guys were going to play a better role for us this year,” head coach John Ellenwood said. “Losing both of them in a short amount of time, we had to focus on changing the way we did stuff because of how good those guys were at what they provided for us offensively.”

However, Bapst and Slone took both of their negative situations and turned them into positive situations, providing a great supporting cast for the team.

According to Ellenwood they are positive guys who have strong faiths and are students of the game and use their grounded family backgrounds to help their teammates and brothers on the floor.

“They lighten the mood, they understand how to help guys with confidence. They understand how to pick their teammates up and they know how to help correct things for the current players,” Ellenwood said.

Not only have Bapst and Slone been a boost to the men’s team this season, but other players who don’t see many minutes and who mainly play scout team in practice, have also made a large contribution. A few of those players are the likes of juniors John Brady and Nate Wood, senior Brandon Wagner and sophomores Parker Brady and Chase Brock.

The “bench mob” has been known this season for their pre-game shenanigans that have been caught on camera by the Journalism and Digital Media (JDM) Department broadcast.

Every home game before tip-off, Bapst, Slone, and Wood will come up with a short dance/skit in which they would act goofy in front of the camera. They have provided dances, arm wrestling competitions, and other acts to entice the viewers.

Slone said that it gives them something to look forward to and that they have one thing to do before the game starts.

Bapst said that he is color blind and therefore cannot see the red tally light when the camera is on them, so he has to continually ask his teammates whether they are on camera or not.

One game, as Ellenwood was clearing his bench and putting in the reserves, Wagner took off his warmup and ran to the scorers table to check in only to find out that he did not have his jersey on underneath his warm up. As Wagner headed back to the bench he was met by the “bench mob” with their laughs and remarks.

“We don’t mind being goofy and being weird, standing out in maybe not the most positive way, but we don’t try to be the cool guy,” Slone said.

One of these goofy moments came on the road trip to Michigan Tech over Christmas break where an incident occured that has come to be known as the “skittles incident.”

“I bought a big bag of skittles the day before the game and I just so happened to decide to bring them on the bench for the guys, you know we get a little hungry here and there, a little sweet tooth,” Bapst said.

During a foul in the game, Bapst called fellow teammate Phil Frentsos, who was in the game at the time, over to the bench. Frentsos ran over from the free throw line and stuck out his hand as Bapst proceeded to drop six skittles in his hand. Frentsos then threw them in his mouth as he ran back to line up for the foul shot.

Ellenwood said watching film the next day the best part was that Frentsos kept looking back at Bapst all pumped up, giving him a thumbs up saying that he is ready to go now.

Other big moments for the “bench mob” come in games where something happens on the floor and then the “bench mob” reacts in a big way on the sidelines.

One of those big moments came in a recent game when the Eagles were hosting the Grand Valley State Lakers on January 11th. With 34 seconds left in the game, redshirt-senior Wendell Davis came down the floor and hit a three to give the Eagles an 83-80 lead which led them to victory by a score of 89-80.

Directly after Davis hit that shot, Ellenwood called a time out and the “bench mob” flew onto the court as they went out to mob their teammate. Wood was jumping up and down swinging his towel in excitement, Bapst was pumping his fist in the air and yelling, and Slone, with a boot on his left foot, came hopping onto the floor on one foot to congratulate Davis and his teammates.

“When a shot goes up like that there are like defining moments in a season and I think it’s just raw emotion that comes out in that situation,” Slone said.

Those defining moments are only made greater by the people who make them, and for the Ashland University men’s basketball team, it’s a brotherhood of 22 guys who make those moments possible.

Bapst said that a great word that defines this basketball team is love and that the brotherhood is made possible by the type of guys that are on the team.

It’s a bond that has drawn the team closer together than ever before this season and for two best friends who would not see any game action this year, it has provided a light in their lives.

“To them it’s not about the wins and losses, it’s about the memories you make with your teammates,” Ellenwood said. “When everybody is bought-in and having fun, it just makes the experience more memorable.”