Vikings offseason highlighted by Gates extension

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Ever since their season came to an end in the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, Dennis Gates and his staff have been hard at work to improve their chances at making an even deeper run in the 2021-2022 campaign. The Vikings were able to capitalize on a hectic transfer portal, landing a pair of wings that will help replace the departing Alec Oglesby and Hugo Ferreira.

First off, CSU signed graduate transfer Broc Finstuen, formerly of Pacific University. Finstuen averaged 11.2 points per game last season on just under 50% shooting from the floor. Gates scouted the former junior college product at Casper College in Wyoming.

The Vikings signed a second former junior college player that Dennis Gates had a connection to when they inked former Florida State Seminole Nathaneal Jack. Jack saw limited time during his two years at Florida State but Gates knows his game well and believes he can help the Vikings. He is a career 37% shooter from behind the arc. Both Jack and Finstuen have a junior college background, something that Gates has valued during his time at Cleveland State.

In addition to bringing in some new faces, Coach Gates was able to do something he did last offseason; convince some familiar names to stay. Despite seniors Craig Beaudion and Torrey Patton graduating, both players announced they would take advantage of their extra year of eligibility granted from the pandemic and stay at Cleveland State to play for the Vikings next season. This is more fantastic news for a program that was burned by transfers leaving seemingly for years, and now Coach Gates has built an environment where players want to stay and grow in Cleveland.

There are a few players yet to make a decision as to their plans for the upcoming year. Al Eichelberger is currently finishing his MBA and Franklyn Penn Jr, who Gates has referred to numerous times as the “heart and soul” of the program, could both opt to return next year with the COVID-19 waiver granted by the NCAA. Neither player has entered the transfer portal, making their 2021-2022 plans cloudy as of now. A returning Eichelberger and Penn would only bolster what should be another extremely deep and versatile Cleveland State team.

While it is too early to begin to think about a schedule for next season, CSU fans should remember that the Vikings had games scheduled against Duke and Kentucky last season before the pandemic altered those plans. With life slowly returning to normal, a more robust non conference schedule could very well be in the cards for the 2021-2022 season. With the Vikings earning a bid in the NCAA tournament last season, look for CSU to compile a plethora of games versus high major schools, in an attempt to further gain national recognition.

Despite Gates’ recruiting tenacity, the biggest news regarding the Cleveland State men’s basketball program so far this offseason came in the form of a contract extension. Cleveland State’s President Harlan Sands, athletic director Scott Garrett, and the Board of Trustees agreed to offer Gates a contract extension through the 2026-2027 season. The extension is not just a commitment to Gates, but the entire men’s basketball program, as the school has committed to improving strength and conditioning facilities, as well as their home non conference schedule, an area that should excite fans of the program.

Cleveland State men’s basketball fans remember the dire straits that Dennis Felton left this program in. On the floor and in the classroom there was lot to be desired. It was going to take a special person and staff to help turn this around, and Cleveland State has found that person in Dennis Gates. In a time of financial uncertainty for many institutions, as a result of COVID-19, Cleveland State recognized the talent they have in Gates and did everything in their power to make sure he stays for the foreseeable future. The university should be applauded for this extension. Basketball fans in the city of Cleveland should surely be taking note of what the Vikings are doing.

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