By Nicholas Salamunovich, The Circuit.
College basketball is a hard, grueling season full of many intense games of wins and losses. The long practices, the countless hours of improving your game is all part of it.
Playing in the NCAA National Tournament in front of thousands of fans is a dream for many college basketball players that not very many get to experience.
One man who has experienced that dream has dominated this year for the Ravens.
“He’s been a really big part of our success to this point and he fits in great,” said Benedictine Ravens head coach Ryan Moody.
Andre Yates is a senior transfer from Dayton, Ohio and a starting guard for the Ravens men’s basketball team. He averages 19 points a game and plays 27.5 minutes a game.
Yates started playing basketball when he was three-years-old, and it has always been his sport. He looks up to NBA players such as Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas and Damian Lillard for inspiration through the way they play the game.
During his high school basketball career, he played at Dayton Dunbar High School. During his senior year, Dayton Dunbar went on undefeated, 28-0, and finished eighth in the national rankings.
Yates was named MVP of the state tournament while winning a state title for his high school in the process.
“It was great for the community,” Yates said. “Going to a high school that had so much tradition, to be the first anything there; it’s something big that nobody will ever forget.”
In high school, Yates was coached by former NBA player Mark Baker, who saw the potential that Yates had.
“I really owe it to him because going into my junior year, I really focused on basketball and that’s when I started to see the offers coming in,” Yates said.
“When you have a coach like that who knows who can be great and who are the good players, it’s almost harder on you to be known.”
Yates went on to play for the University of Creighton, a Division 1 basketball program at the time.
While at Creighton, he not only got to room with Chicago Bulls Small Forward Doug McDermott, but he was also given the opportunity to play in the NCAA National Tournament, the biggest stage in college basketball.
“We had a lot of attention on us that year,” Yates said. “Once it was time for game time, seeing that NBA arena filled with certain celebrities that I’ve never seen in person, getting the opportunity to shake hands with Coach K, talk to Jay Bilas and meet Reggie Miller.
It was that moment as a basketball player where you’re like ‘okay, this is the level, this is the show to get everything done’.”
In 2013, after his freshman year, he decided to transfer to Cleveland State University to play basketball. His decision to transfer was mainly to be closer to home.
“At Creighton, I had a great experience, but I just felt a little overwhelmed by a lot as far as the load that I had and kind of had second thoughts about being so far away from home,” he said.
Yates seemed to have a successful career while at CSU, averaging six points and two rebounds per game in 2014, and nine points, two rebounds and two assists in 2015.
From CSU, Yates chose to transfer to Benedictine College for his final season of eligibility.
“Andre had decided that he was going to leave Cleveland State, and he went to the same high school as Shawn Fleming Jr. who played the last 4 years for us,” Moody said. “He has been a great teammate, a really positive guy on the practice floor and in games.”
Even though Yates is playing only one year at Benedictine, he has impacted the team big time, averaging 19 points a game.
He has recorded 21 double-digit games, two of them in which he scored over 30 points.
Even when it comes to playing basketball for the Ravens, Yates plays harder for no one more than his head coach.
“I have the utmost respect for him (the head coach),” Yates said. “He puts so much into it, so many countless hours. We all have respect for coach and we want to win for him.”
Moody has nothing but respect for his senior guard.
“In my opinion, he’s the best player in the conference,” Moody said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete on both ends of the floor and he makes us better when he’s scoring.”
Since Andre has played at both the NCAA and the NAIA level of college basketball, he really doesn’t see much of a difference between the two.
“Too the naked eye, the really only difference is size and athleticism,” Yates said. “I believe in the Heart that we have a few teams who could probably hold their own against a lot of Division 1 teams.”
After Andre finishes his college career at Benedictine, he is looking to possibly head to Europe to play basketball. Germany and Greece are some of the countries looking to give him an offer.
“It’s just an opportunity to see what I can do against some of the best players in the world,” Yates said.
Yates and the Ravens travel to Canton, Mo. for the final game of the year to take on Culver-Stockton College on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m.