MISHAWAKA – Overcome.
That has been the rallying cry for Clay Yeo.
Yeo, the former basketball star at Bethel College, has been a picture of perseverance and persistence the past few months.
Yeo, an All-American guard for the Pilots, battled back from a knee injury to play the final two months of his senior season. The former Triton High School star did so after Bethel coach Mike Lightfoot announced in early January that this, his 30th season, would be his last season coaching the Pilots.
Yeo has no regrets as he now awaits another surgery on his knee. He had surgery last summer after hurting the knee during the 2015-16 season before injuring the knee again in a game back in November. Yeo is now awaiting a donor so that he can have another surgery to repair the micro fracture in his right knee. The surgery, a cartilage transplant, will be done by Dr. Brian Cole, the lead physician for the Chicago Bulls.
“I’m anxious to have the surgery and to be pain free,” said Yeo in a recent phone interview. “It’s still painful, but not near as bad as during the season. I’m just looking forward to having it done and feeling better.”
Yeo, who came to Bethel after playing his freshman year at Valparaiso University, helped lead the Pilots to the Elite Eight of the NAIA National Championships. Bethel saw its season end at 31-5 with a 77-75 overtime loss to Bellevue University. A game winning 3-point shot by Yeo at the final horn rimmed out. Yeo, who missed 10 games this season, averaged 14.4 points and almost five rebounds per game this season and finished his three-year Bethel career with 1,796 points. The Pilots went 16-2 to win the Crossroads League regular-season title and then also claimed the league tournament championship in Lightfoot’s final game on the court that was renamed for him back in February.
“I don’t regret anything,” said Yeo of his decision to return to action on one good knee. “I wish that we could have won a championship for coach Lightfoot, but we really accomplished a lot this season under the circumstances.”
Yeo, who was an Indiana All-Star in 2013 and led Triton to a pair of Class 1-A state runner-up finishes, says he found out a lot about himself through the challenges he has faced at Bethel.
“Regardless of the situation you are in, you always have more to give,” remarked Yeo, who was Bethel’s top scorer the past two seasons. “I had more in me and I learned that through coach Lightfoot. I learned how strong the power of the human spirit really is. You can always get through things, no matter what they are.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster here for me, but a lot more highs than lows. During those lows, I found out how many friends that I really had. We won a lot of games and I made relationships here that will last a lifetime.”
“Coach Lightfoot always talked about the relationships you make being the most important thing. I’ve made awesome ones here and I’m super proud of that.”
Yeo is now facing a busy time as he prepares for life after basketball. He has finals and graduation to think about and then a job with Prudential Financial in Carmel. Not to mention, the impending surgery.
“I don’t think that it has hit me yet that basketball is over for me,” said Yeo. “I think it will hit me next year when the season gets here.
“That being said, I’m excited for the new challenges that are to come in my life.”
No matter what they are you can bet that this classy and high-character young man will overcome all of them.
It’s just the Yeo way.