The 2014 #5 ranked camper Akwasi Yeboah was named to the All-Rookie Team in the America East posting 9.8 PPG and 4.3 RPG. Here is how he did it.
It all began at a suburban secondary school where I developed my interest and love for the game of basketball.
My older brother, Kwame thrived in the sport being blessed with great stature, giving him a competitive advantage over his peers. Naturally I looked up to Kwame and wanted to be just as good or better than him so I began to tag along to his 7 AM basketball practices before school starts.
Initially, I was the worst player on my team for my year group. Often, my PE teacher, Casca Hoy gave me harsh but constructive criticism. I took each feedback very hard on myself and often felt like quitting.
My mother Winifred intervened and was very supportive throughout with encouraging words; “Nothing worth having comes easy and although people may not notice, God does and promises to award the appetite of the diligent.” These and many other reassuring words have made mother instrumental in my progress both on and off the court.
I owe a lot of my success to my mother.
Each year I improved and began to take on leadership role on the school team.
Mr Hoy developed interest and confidence in me which earned me significant court time.The the light ball moment dawned and I envisioned that I could go far with basketball.
My desire for competition in the game led Kwame and I to join London Spartans basketball club where I honed my fundamentals in basketball. Playing competitively against other National League gave me a huge advantage in the school league as I dominated. Summer workouts with Spartans were intense but perseverance earned me a place on the U14s team.
I gained recognition with an invitation to the London U14 London regional tryouts.
Unfortunately I was cut from the team at the last minute. In my despair I vowed never to repeat that kind of disappointment again.
Kwame and I also joined other clubs like Brentwood fire and the national team powerhouse, NASSA. We came across enthusiastic coaches and particularly during my time at NASSA, we won a national league title in addition to the sureshot cup final. Training and competing against the elite players in the country expanded my game and exposure ever more, making me a better player. I represented the England u16 and u18 National team where I played a key role on both teams.
For the first time I was invited to Basketball without Borders, with elite NBA and European coaches and professional players attending.
My sixth form school Barking Abbey, set a platform for me and provided all the tools that I needed to prepare for the next level. I met numerous elite players from all over the country, it was an extremely competitive environment.
Individual workouts, strength and conditioning, team practice in addition classes and games almost depicted what to expect at college in America but that was just a tip of the iceberg.
I played on the NBL men’s Division three men’s national league team in my first year and then the NBL men’s Division One team in my second year.
I worked out at 7 AM every morning before school started, on top of individual workouts during the day and team practice after school.
I was extremely determined I wasn’t going to get night my dream of playing Division I basketball therefore I ensured to put myself in the best position for success. I excelled in my game mid season in my second year where I gained a position in the starting line up.
At Barking Abbey there were opportunities to play in the City of Palm’s Tournament and Chic-fil-a Classic which gave me feel of reality especially for college coaches recruitment. Soon I received my first offer from a Division II team in Florida and playing college basketball started to become a reality, but I was not going to settle as that was not my ultimate goal.
Full athletic scholarship to a division one school in America is not achieved on a silver plate but with the help of my head coach Mr Gardner I emailed a host of schools and conferences with variable outcomes, often disappointing.
The breakthrough was after a game against Redding Rockets in which I hit the game winning shot that a Stony Brook Alumni, Danny Carter approached Lloyd Gardner about potential recruitment. Subsequently contact to the former Stony Brook head coach, Steve Pikiell took form and Danny from that moment became a mentor and a friend and I thank God for placing him in my life at the right time.
The Head Coach was impressed with my game during the finals of Men’s Division one league and the huge sign up for Stony Brook was not only a dream come true but one of the best days of my life.
Summer of 2014, I was thrown straight into the deep end at Stony Brook Seawolves preseason. The 6 AM starts was no joke, Workouts both on the court and in the weight room was a huge eye-opener.
I can recall struggling to walk and barely being able to raise my arms as a result of the first week of workouts and lifting.
Balancing school and basketball was the biggest adjustment however, the help of my academic advisor’s and the cooperation of my coaches made a difference.
My freshman year was a huge learning experience as I redshirted the 2015-16 season. The compelling decision was in context of limited play time due to the elite line up of the team then, although I was offered the option to fight for my minutes. I sought guidance from significant others and concluded with that decision without regrets. However as an enthusiastic player being on the bench was incomprehensible.
The 2015-16 was magnificent for stony brook as we set multiple records in addition to winning the American East conference tournament in addition to our first appearance in NCAA tournament against the Kentucky Wild Cats. Although a great experience and honor as a team member it was rather tormenting that I didn’t suit up and play that season.
I digested the emotions positively and dedicated time in the weight room, getting extra shots up after practices and even after home games throughout the season. I placed myself in the best position to be prepared for my rookie season. The coaching staff believed in my potential and supported me immensely throughout the year.
The abrupt change in the coaching staff for the 2016-17 season was met with uncertainty but I was determined to impress the new coaching staff and register my ability and dominance immediately.
Unfortunately I underwent surgery and had to rehabilitate quickly, in the same vein forfeiting invitation to the Great Britain under 20 national team over the summer 2016. That summer was extremely fundamental to my preparation for my rookie debut and was fortunate to have assistant coaches put me through workouts at anytime of the day on top of individual and team workouts.
Things begun to brighten up as I owned my starter spot on the team.
Then a solid start tomorrow rookie season, posting double digit scoring in my first five games. These achievements boosted my confidence despite the set backs with the very bad shots I made. The assistant head coach and I religiously reflected on the game films which enabled me to make changes.
As if fate was not on my side I hit the rookie wall approximately mid season where I couldn’t make shots and often made bad decisions in games and my countenance for the game dipped. It was extremely rough, going through five consecutive games without registering a single point but my coaches never lost confidence in me.
Prayers was my refuge and getting back in the gym for extra workouts began to pay off. I found my groove again which boosted my confidence. This groove transferred onto my games and I began to provide a huge spark in my performances off the bench.
Personally, the season ended on a high note as I began to discover different ways to affect the game and not just by scoring. I became more open minded, a better player and teammate, allowing me to earn an honourable all conference rookie team award.
One thing I’ve learnt you can’t expect different results by doing the same thing repeatedly. Therefore live breath and visualise your ambition.
Article Tags: Akwasi Yeboah, DENGTOP50, Players' Voice