MISHAWAKA – Clay Yeo has always been up to a challenge on the basketball court.
The Bethel College senior is now doing his best to deal with another challenge that the sport he dearly loves has dealt to him.
Yeo, who starred at Triton High School, is sidelined after suffering a knee injury during a game last month. The 6-5 All-American guard, who has been brilliant for the Pilots the past two seasons after transferring from Valparaiso University, is trying to make the best of an uncertain situation.
“It’s been extremely tough to have to sit and watch,” said Yeo in a phone interview Monday. “It’s also definitely been humbling. It’s really given me a new respect for guys who have been injured and had to sit out. I’ve never had to do this before. It’s very humbling.
“I’m just trying to do my best to impact our team in other ways. I’m trying to support our guys. But, it’s been hard. I told them Saturday (after watching Bethel beat rival Grace 80-77) that I was losing years off my life sitting and watching.”
The Pilots, who host Goshen College tonight in a Crossroads League contest, sit at 9-2 overall and 2-1 in league play.
Yeo played through a knee injury last year as he chose to gut it out. He ended up averaging 21.4 points-per-game and 6.6 rebounds per outing as the Pilots went 24-10 and lost in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament. Yeo then had surgery in March on his meniscus and to repair a micro fracture in his knee.
“I was pretty injured last year, but I did not want to lose a season so I played on it,” explained Yeo. “The decision was up to me and I would do the same thing. During the summer, it was still up in the air if I would play this year, but the knee was okay and I decided to play.”
Yeo, who had a knee surgery during his high school career at Triton, suffered the same injury in his right knee last month when the Pilots were playing in a tournament at Viterbo University in Wisconsin.
“It was just a common play where I went to take the ball to the basket and I planted my right leg and I felt something give,” Yeo said of the most recent injury. “There ws no ACL tear. It’s the same injury I had last year, a micro fracture. It’s a new injury though as the other one had healed. They said that it could be related to genetics or it could just be two freak injuries that are the same.”
Yeo, who was averaging 15.9 ppg. through the first seven games, is now on crutches and doing rehab on the injury. His playing career at Bethel, and beyond, is up in the air.
“I honestly don’t know right now what’s going to happen,” said Yeo, who averaged 21 ppg. his sophomore season at Bethel. “I go back to the doctor Dec. 8 and we will figure out what we want to do. I’m trying to be optimistic and positive, but it’s tough to say.
“It could be that I may have to have another surgery and that my career at Bethel would be over. That would be a tough pill for me to swallow because I’ve always wanted to play basketball as long as I could. We will have to see.”
Yeo, who was an Indiana All-Star in 2013 and led Triton to Class 1-A state runner-up finishes in both 2011 and 2013, said that it’s possible that they may need to do cartilage restoration surgery on his knee. That type of operation would be done by Dr. Brian Cole, who serves as the head team physician for the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m blessed to have the support staff that I do with my family and my coaches and teammates here at Bethel,” remarked Yeo.
Yeo has been making his mark in big ways off the hardwood too during his time at Bethel. He was recently nominated for the 2017 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams, which honors athletes nationwide for their contributions in community service and leadership away from athletics. Yeo is involved with Transformation Ministries, which helps inner-city kids in South Bend, and Lifeline, which also helps at risk youth in Elkhart.
“I’ve been blessed to have the platform that I do through basketball and Bethel,” said Yeo. “My work with kids means a lot to me. To be able to hopefully make a lasting impact on them is a great thing.”