Men's Basketball

Yeo continues winning ways in successful basketball career

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Bethel College’s men’s basketball team is currently in the midst of another strong season thanks to the presence of junior guard, Clay Yeo. Yeo only began playing in the Crossroads league last season, but his basketball successes have been a lifelong trait. Yeo scores against IUSB Yeo was raised in small town Bourbon, Indiana, where he grew up enjoying his favorite pastimes, including baseball and hanging out with friends. Yeo strived to keep active and enjoy life and the great outdoors, especially when he was a kid. “I grew up a true ‘townee,’” Yeo stated, “Most people would say (Bourbon) was a pretty dull town, but it was fun growing up with the guys I played sports with.” Despite all of Yeo’s success on the hardwood, he claims it wasn’t always basketball that stole his attention. As mentioned before, he started out on home plate. “I always loved baseball,” said Yeo. “I grew up a Cardinals fan and the sport was definitely my first love.” Yeo’s bright future within the sport of basketball began during his 7th grade year when his parents gave him a basketball hoop for Christmas. Yeo tells of all the early memories of consistently wishing to play outside even in the worst of conditions. “I would shoot hoops all the time with my friends,” says Yeo with a chuckle. “I can even remember putting on winter gloves and playing after clearing the snowy driveway.” Yeo smiled and reflected back to think upon his earlier days. He took pride in being a super fan of former Triton High School great and eventual Bethel College baller, Jake Everett. “When I was little, I always thought high school was the highest level of competition and was the place that everyone wanted to reach,” joked Yeo. “I went to all of the games at Triton when I was little, and I guess, because of that, Jake was always my sports idol.” Yeo knew what it meant to be a winner practically from the very beginning. His class’ team had an impressive win-loss record of 59-1 from fifth through eighth grade. As Yeo continued to polish up his basketball skills, he would end up quite literally growing into his element. He grew an impressive six inches between his eighth and ninth grade year. His success in middle school transferred over to his time with Triton high school as he made it to the state championship game during his sophomore and senior seasons. “(Triton) lost two state titles by a combined nine points within a three year window,” he said. “I guess you could say we just barely missed out on some real fun there.” Although he was unable to win a state championship during high school, he was still able to catch the eye of a number of schools that wanted him to play at the collegiate level. But that level seemed to be pushed back a few years when Yeo had to have corrective knee surgery before he even graduated high school. But, hobbling onto Valparaiso University’s campus during his sophomore year of high school, Yeo was shocked to find out that he would still be receiving an offer to play division one basketball after having said surgery. “I was amazed by the character and integrity of a school, such as Valpo, that was willing to make such a great offer for me to play basketball, even while I was still recovering from surgery,” said Yeo. Yeo immediately fell in love with the idea of playing basketball for the University of Valparaiso and committed his future eligibility to the school at the beginning of his junior year “I, like a lot of other kids, just wanted to play at the highest level possible and Valpo seemed to be that for me,” said Yeo. Some athletes can point to a single game for which they felt that the true powers of something beyond the ordinary was on their side. You may call it luck, superstition or even the divine presence of God, but Feb. 9 of freshman year was that day for Yeo. One of Valpo’s star players, LaVonte Dority, was not going to be able to play a full game, so Yeo was informed that he would play some extra minutes. “I was given one goal for the game,” said Yeo, “Face-guard (Travis) Bader.” This was no small feat, however, as Travis Bader would go on to finish that season by setting the NCAA record for most three-point baskets made in a career and enter the NBA draft. Thanks in part to Yeo’s guard, Bader made only four of his twelve three-pointer attempts that game. However, Yeo’s great outing didn’t end there. Yeo went on to make a three-pointer of his own with seven seconds left in the contest and hand the victory to Valpo. “It was like one of those sports moments that every kid dreams of,” said Yeo, “Being a freshman and getting the chance to come in and hit the game-winning bucket when it’s all tied up like that was a pretty crazy moment.” As amazing as the moment may have felt in the game itself, Yeo claims that the real victory was a result of what came prior to the opening tip-off. Yeo recalls the shake in his knees as he sat nervously in the locker room prior to his big game. Full of anxiety and even a little bit of doubt, Yeo reached out for a lifeline. “I just remember thinking to myself that I needed to do well in this one, because this might be my best chance,” said Yeo. “I reached out to God and asked him for help. Looking back, I know that that’s the reason I was able to play with so much energy. To be honest it was one of the strangest things that’s ever happened to me,” said Yeo. Yeo claims that that day ended up being the one that changed everything. “That day was the moment that I realized that God truly is real, and I decided to buckle down and carry out my life differently,” said Yeo. Yeo would go on to perform at a high level for the next few games and find some enjoyment in his time as a Valparaiso Crusader; however, over time it became too much like a business for Yeo. “As an individual, I wanted to be known as more than just a basketball player,” says Yeo, “sometimes that was hard to grasp while being consumed by the idea that it’s all about wins and losses. It required lots of time and work, which is fine in theory, but I believe God wanted me to take a different path.” Sitting in his freshman dorm room following a workout, Yeo made the momentous phone call to Bethel College that would eventually alter his collegiate path. “I just remember talking to Ryne Lightfoot (assistant coach for the Bethel Pilots) and explaining to him how I felt that (Valparaiso) wasn’t where God had called me,” said Yeo. Yeo grew up knowing all about Bethel through the school’s annual basketball camps that he attended, as well as being recruited by Bethel during his early high school years. “(Coach Lightfoot) worked with me on possible places for me to go, but for some reason I always felt that I wanted to come back to Bethel.” Yeo followed through with that belief of eventually coming back to Bethel in 2014. However, this time he wasn’t returning as a young kid attending a summer camp, but instead as a starting member for the Pilots. Yeo believes that even though he transferred away from Valparaiso University, the school still carries a strong, positive impact on his life. “I met some awesome people and formed great friendships while at VU,” said Yeo. “I may not be there now, but I still appreciate the time (I spent there) and like to support my former teammates and friends that are still there.” Through his first season and a half with the Pilots, Yeo has left quite a mark on the men’s basketball program. He has won numerous Crossroads League honors such as being named its player of the week as well as being selected as an NAIA first team all-American during his sophomore season with the Pilots. Perhaps one of Yeo’s greatest and most recent accomplishments came as he made a career-changing free throw versus Keiser University. What made it so significant is that this free throw brought Yeo’s career point total to an impressive four figures. “I honestly haven’t ever been one to keep track of those types of things, and didn’t really know it was happening at the time,” said Yeo, “My roommates had told me when I was like 200 points away, but it’s pretty awesome to think that I was able to finally make it to the point of putting up one thousand points in my career!” It only took Yeo until his 13th game of his second season to achieve this great milestone, making him the second quickest to reach the one thousand point club. Looking at Yeo’s career thus far through the lens of the various awards and achievements he has received is quite impressive, but Yeo believes in success being an ongoing process. “Knowing that I gave everything while fighting for something and living with those results is what I and the rest of my team strive for in every game,” said Yeo. “I want people to see me as more than just a guy that scored one thousand points as a member of this team, but instead as a guy who left a positive impact on these people here at Bethel.”
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