Release courtesy of the Ashland University Media Relations Department
ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University junior forward Evan Yates (Cincinnati, Ohio/Walnut Hills) didn’t become one of the most dominant forces in the country by accident.
And, yes, the word “force” can be taken literally – just ask the coaches around the GLIAC about their strategies on trying to guard him. All season, the league’s minds have tried triple-teaming, quadruple-teaming, zoning and just about anything else, but it hasn’t stopped the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Yates.
Not only is he leading the GLIAC in scoring (20.4 points per game) and rebounding (11.8 per game), he also scored his 1,000th career point on Thursday (Feb. 2) at Ohio Dominican. Yates became the 22nd member of that group in AU history and, as a junior, has a legitimate chance to move into the top five in school history in scoring by the end of his career.
“It gives you a sense of pride in everything that he’s done, what our coaches have done and what the team has done to help him get to that level,” said third-year head coach John Ellenwood. “No one can do it on their own. It’s definitely an accomplishment where you just feel so much pride for the kid.”
Ellenwood came to Ashland three years ago from Thomas More (Ky.) College, a Division III school. While with the Saints, Ellenwood, a former post player himself, recruited Yates to play there.
“I saw great footwork in him, just watching him he moved his feet extremely well for his size and he had great hands,” said Ellenwood. “That catches your eye every single time with a post guy, because if they have great hands and great footwork then they’ve got a shot.”
Once Ellenwood came to Ashland, he said there was a learning curve in figuring out what type of player he needed to recruit when he made the jump to Division II. But he knew Yates – with his size and ability – could compete in the rugged GLIAC. He said he compared the sizes of other dominant big men in the league, including two-time GLIAC Player of the Year Justin Keenan, who finished his career at Ferris State in 2010-11. Ellenwood found that Yates could be effective at the Division II level.
“I thought he could be pretty good if he lives up to his potential,” Ellenwood said. “He had to drop weight which he did, he had to put on muscle which he did and he had to work on his game which he did. I’m kind of blown away by what he’s accomplished this year.”
What Yates has accomplished this season is pretty remarkable. His scoring average (20.4) would put him 12th all-time in AU’s single-season record books. His rebounding average (11.8) would shatter the school record, previously set in 1971-72 by Earl Hill, who recorded 10.8 boards per game that season. With 407 points this season, he has a really good chance to have the 13th 500-point season on record. Yates already ranks 11th all-time in AU history with 534 career rebounds. He could move into the top seven by season’s end.
Yates also leads the conference in field goal percentage (.604) and has compiled 13 double-doubles – the most in the GLIAC. Against Central State on Nov. 15, Yates scored 24 points and pulled down 20 rebounds. It was the first 20-rebound game since the 2001 season.
At 6-foot-6, he doesn’t have the immense size normally seen with a dominant rebounder. Ellenwood said Yates’ rebounding ability has much more to do with his skills than his size.
“It’s effort, it’s positioning and strength. Once you have your positioning you have to hold it,” said Ellenwood. “Just knowing where the ball’s going to come off and getting in the position. He becomes immovable.”
Defenders and other post players around the league have tried moving him and it doesn’t work. But Yates can move himself. He shows an array of post moves under the basket once he’s able to establish position. Ellenwood praised Yates’ footwork as the key to his ability to avoid defenders when he goes up for a basket.
“He’s quick off his feet, he’s got an explosive step, and because he’s so strong, he can leave his arms up and go get the ball rather than having his arms down in order to hold his guy off behind him,” said Ellenwood.
Even with his skills and size, Ellenwood still sees some room for improvement, including at the free throw line, where Yates has struggled.
“Defensively, you can always get better. That’s probably the thing we’re going to focus on as the season goes on and into next year, is becoming a great defender to complete his game. If he does that I think he’s got a real shot at playing overseas and being successful there.”
For Yates, those are just more guys that can’t move him.