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Ben Denton: The 16th Man

Denton preparing on the sidelines for another game, courteousy of Ben Denton

On every basketball team, there are many notable faces on and off the court that gain all the attention from fans and media.

The starters who lead their team to victory every game with amazing plays.

The bench players who provide that extra spark when their numbers are called.

The coaches who draw the plays and makes the team work towards the ultimate goal, a win.

While everyone knows and loves those 15 players and three coaches, there is a 16th player.

He makes sure everything is running smoothly behind the scenes as the action on the court intensifies.

Though that player may not be an actual basketball player, the on-court success would not be possible without him

For the past four years, senior Ben Denton has been that player for the Belmont University’s women’s basketball team.

Denton was the Belmont women’s basketball team manager from 2019-2023, but his life in sports began long before Belmont.

Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, Denton has been around sports for as long as he can remember.

He started playing a variety of sports ranging from lacrosse and soccer to baseball and basketball.

Though he had an interest in basketball, it meant little until Denton’s first year at Belmont, when he saw a post from the women’s basketball Instagram.

“They were looking for practice squad players,” he explained. “I had never played organized basketball in my life, but I went up to the booth and said, ‘Can I be on the practice squad?’”

Although Denton’s inexperience disqualified him, another door was opened.

“They said, ‘You might want to try this manager position,’” he said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means,’ but I was just trying to get involved.”

From there, Denton became the manager of the women’s basketball team, unaware of what was to come from not only the team, but from within himself.

For Denton, it all kickstarted during the Bruins’ 2021 NCAA Tournament run, which included an upset win over No. 5 seed Gonzaga University.

“That was when I knew I wanted to be in sports,” Denton said.

Denton traveled with the team not only as the manager, but as the team’s professional videographer due to COVID restrictions limiting travel sizes.

“I still look back at it sometimes in those videos I took, and I remember me being there, all mashed up,” he said. "When we did that, it was their first ever NCAA tournament win in program history. It was huge.”

But Denton initially didn’t understand the impact the game would have on him.

“It didn’t seem huge in the moment,” Denton explained. “Because not a lot of the fans got to celebrate, but it was huge for the school and for me because it solidified for me that I wanted to work in sports.”

Leading up to the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Denton still struggled with switching from his motion pictures major.

But after he saw Belmont upset the University of Oregon for its second-ever tournament win, he knew it was a decision he had to make.

“After we got back from Knoxville, I sat around for maybe two or three weeks making a big decision to switch from motion pictures,” Denton explained.

Considering his career choices and reflecting on his time during those tournament runs, Denton officially declared as a Sports Administration major with a minor in Sports & Media.

“We have a running saying that managers will run the world someday, because they do everything,” Head coach Bart Brooks said.

From organizing the practice film, to rebounding for players and even doing the laundry, Head coach Bart Brooks spoke about how Denton did all the little things to make sure the team was ready to play.

“We cannot do what we do without his support. He just made our lives so easy because he was dependable and showed up every day,” said Brooks.

His fondest memory with Denton came during the 2021 NCAA tournament when he made a half-court shot in shootarounds right before the team beat Gonzaga.

“It’s hard to beat that moment,” Brooks said.

“We only have a certain amount of time on the court, and everyone had gotten through warmups. With a couple seconds left, Ben fires up a half-court shot, makes it, and everyone mobs him at half court.”

To Brooks, it seemed Denton’s shot represented the positive energy he brought despite such a dreadful period.

“That year was a hard year because we couldn’t be together much besides practice,” Brooks said. “We all had masks on at all times, and so it was really cool to be able to spend time with Ben in that setting in the bubble and get to know him.”

Today, Denton is a social media intern with Belmont’s Athletic Department.

He plans to graduate this winter to attend graduate school this spring.

From there, he will work as a graduate assistant for the Athletic Department while earning his masters in sport administration.

When Brooks heard Denton would be moving on from the team during his senior year, he was happy for Denton.

“I’m so happy for him because he’s worked really hard,” Brooks said. “Throughout his college journey, he’s transitioned from a plan in one direction, to having a plan in another with his career path. I think that’s what college is about.”

While Denton has moved on professionally, his support for the women’s team never wavered.

“Come to Belmont women’s basketball games,” Denton said. “The girls worked really hard on being good together. Getting out in the community, getting themselves out there, and I think they deserve more recognition.”

Although Denton may no longer work with him, Brooks said Denton is always a part of the Belmont family.

“He’s still a part of who we are and what makes Belmont special,” Brooks said. “He’s gonna be awesome at whatever he does because of the quality of his character and the kind of person that he is. The definition of servant leadership is Ben.”


This article was written by Seth Thorpe

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