MILWAUKEE | Clay Yeo nearly broke Twitter on Sunday afternoon.
In the moments that followed Yeo’s breakout performance against Oakland – which included shutdown defense on sharpshooting Travis Bader along with the game-winning 3-pointer – the mere mention of Yeo’s name on the social networking site left a trail of favorites and retweets.
As his teammates funneled out of the Athletics-Recreation Center, Yeo sat with his girlfriend Marissa and sifted through nearly 100 phone notifications, many coming from his hometown “Bourbonites.”
“When you come from a small town like I do, you have a lot of people supporting you,” Yeo said. “I just want to go out there and make them all proud. Whenever I go back home, people are always asking me about Valpo and how things are going. That means a lot.”
Things weren’t going well for Yeo shortly after he arrived on campus for summer workouts. Coming from a 1A program, the Triton product had heard all the knocks about his level of competition in high school and how that would translate to the college game.
It wasn’t the competition that was the problem for Yeo. It was the food.
“I don’t know what he was eating, but I just know it wasn’t very good,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “It was a lot of junk and that was something we needed to change.”
The Twinkies were replaced by vegetables; the McDonald’s shakes replaced by protein shakes. Soon even Marissa’s family noticed a change when Yeo had to politely decline their gift packages of cookies and sweets.
“In high school I was able to put whatever I wanted into my body and never really had to pay the price,” Yeo said. “Once I got (to Valparaiso), everything just got a lot more demanding.”
The food wasn’t the only problem. Summer workouts are designed to get the upperclassmen in shape after a few months off the court. For an incoming freshman, the transition to Division I basketball can break the unprepared body as well as the mind. Yeo’s body began failing him almost immediately as the photographs of his blistered ankles are still things of lore in the Valparaiso basketball offices.
“I’ve rolled both of my ankles, I had the flu, I fractured a bone in my foot,” Yeo said. “My body has been through it all this season. I’m finally now getting around to being healthy.”
Drew wasn’t surprised that Yeo was effective against Oakland, having shown plenty of promise during the recruitment process. The Valparaiso coaches have long said that Yeo has all-conference potential and the freshman certainly offered a glimpse of those expectations on Sunday.
With five regular-season games remaining, Yeo is eager to build on his performance. It’s not lost on Drew, or Yeo for that matter, that the lack of minutes earlier in the season will mean Yeo has fresher legs for the stretch run.
“I’m just trying to make the most of it,” Yeo said. “I’m happy I played well last week, but that doesn’t mean anything going into Milwaukee. Now it’s another opportunity to go out and help us get a win.”
If Yeo can lead the Crusaders to victory at the U.S. Cellular Arena and keep Valparaiso in the hunt for a Horizon League championship, that just may be enough to finally break Twitter.