BOURBON — Even though Clay Yeo had already decided on a college his sophomore year, it’s something that’s been looming in the back of his mind ever since. Now that it’s official, the prodigious Triton talent can just focus on his senior season.
After two years of verbal commitment, Yeo finally signed his letter of intent to play at Valparaiso next year on the first day of the early signing period Wednesday.
“When I committed back in my sophomore year to Valparaiso there was obviously some weight off my shoulders then, but it was still kind of there because it wasn’t really official,” said Yeo. “After making it final it was really nice. We had a scrimmage last night against Peru so I got to go in not having to worry about anything. Just being signed is a great feeling.”
An athletic 6-6 swingman for the Trojans, Yeo brings a broad skill set with him to Valpo. His combination of quickness and height allow him to either create driving the lane or produce in the post, and if needed he could be a reliable spot shooter from the perimeter for the Crusaders as well.
Yeo’s junior season stats alone provide a glimpse into his versatility — 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists per game.
“I think the main thing is that he’s very versatile; he can do a lot of different things,” said Triton head coach Jason Groves. “We’ve used him in about every possible position you can on the basketball court at the high school level. His length and his athleticism allow them to do that as well in college. If they want him to send somebody inside he can do that; if they want to send somebody outside he can do that as well. He’s going to help them out a lot.”
On the flip side, Valparaiso should be a good fit for Yeo as well.
The Crusaders make their home in the competitive Horizon League, which has gained increasing notoriety in recent years with former league member Butler’s deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. Although the Crusaders haven’t themselves earned a ticket to the NCAA tilt since 2004, they’re usually in the hunt for a conference title. The team has recently been energized by the hire of first-year head coach Bryce Drew, former Valpo player and son of longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew as well as a former NBA player for the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Charlotte/ New Orleans Hornets.
“Valparaiso, the thing I liked most about them was their coaching staff,” said Yeo. “Everyone knows Bryce Drew and what he’s done as a player, and I think he’s going to do big things as a coach. The league is above where it’s usually at, and Valparaiso is usually a top contender for the league championship. There’s a lot of potential to go play in March so it’d be a great opportunity for me.”
“It’s going to mean a lot to him. I don’t know if he even realizes right now what the opportunity means and what connections playing at a Division I program could open up for him,” Groves said. “It’s just an unbelievable opportunity for one to get your education paid for and to get a good education at a good school and to be with a group of coaches who not only care about him as an athlete but who care about him as a person as well.”
“I think this is a great fit for him. He’s just going to get so much out of this and become a better person in general; not just a better basketball player,” Groves continued. “And I think it gives him an opportunity if he wants to look to extend his basketball career past Valpo. They put a lot of players in the European pro leagues, and he has a shot to do something like that as well. The opportunities are limitless.”
Before his senior season has even begun, Yeo’s footprint at Triton is already impressive.
His 43 points at Rochester last February set a new school record for most points in a single game, and he finished the season with another record-setting tally of 675 points. That total pushed him to 1,335 career points — eight points past the previous Triton career scoring record set by 2011 grad Griffyn Carpenter with a full season still left to play.
But rather than dwelling on his many on-the-court achievements, Yeo said he hopes he’s remembered more for his qualities as a person than any records he’s set during his time at Triton.
The consummate team player, it’s the championships he’s been a part of the past three seasons — sectional titles in 2010 and 2012 and a semistate championship in 2011 — he points to as his real legacy with the program. He still yearns for the state title that has eluded the program since its first trip to Conseco Fieldhouse back in 2008, a campaign that began a run of three state finals berths in four years for the Trojans.
“I just want people to remember me more as a person coming through here and how I handled different things. Records are going to be broken eventually. Someone is going to come along and break my records; it’s bound to happen,” he said. “I want to put a banner up there so everyone will see it. The 1965 championship banner is still up there from when we went to semistate. People still see that and they remember, so that’s how I want to be remembered.”