Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
American University got a strong 2013 verbal on Sunday morning when Westtown School (Pa.) forward Yilret Yiljep chose the Eagles–just a few months after telling their coaching staff he wasn’t interested.
A talented forward, Yiljep’s recruiting had taken off in the last year as the Nigerian native continues to learn the game. He chose American over Binghamton after also taking visits to Colgate and Monmouth; the senior had told CoBL back in July he had a number of other offers including La Salle, Davidson, Lafayette and more.
Originally, Yiljep didn’t think he’d want to go to school in a city, something he told American (located in Washington, D.C.) back in the spring. Just a few months later, however, he was telling head coach Jeff Jones he would attend the Patriot League school after taking his official visit to the school this weekend.
“I was like ‘I’m not sure if I want to come,’ blah blah blah, so they kind of stopped (recruiting me),” he told CoBL on Sunday during his train ride home. “Then I did some research on my own later in the summer…and American was the perfect fit. So I kind of regretted telling them no, so I called them back and told them ‘yes, I’m interested’ and they came back and were really nice about it.”
The Eagles have been fairly successful under Jones, who’s been at the school since 2000, making NCAA tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009 and winning 20-or-more games in four of the last five seasons. The Patriot League continued to get stronger this offseason, adding Boston University and Loyola (Md.) as full members for the 2013-14 season, but Yiljep said that those moves had no impact on his decision.
“It’s not all about basketball, it’s about the academics too, so I wanted the best in both worlds,” he said, adding he was interested in studying business. “They have a really good reputation for academics and basketball, so I felt like American provided the best of both for me.”
The 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward is the third verbal commitment the Eagles have for their 2013 class, joining a pair of guards in New Albany (Ohio)’ Jalen Rhea and Flower Mound (Tx.)’s Kade Kager; all three can sign their binding National Letters of Intent during the early signing period on November 14.
Yiljep hopes that getting his decision out of the way before his final season of high school basketball even starts will allow him to focus on continuing to improve his game instead of having to worry about where he’ll end up next year.
“I feel like if I waited until the spring of my senior year, I’m gonna have it at the back of my mind that I don’t know where I’m going and that’s going to make me nervous and everything,” he said, “so I just felt like it was the best to just get it out of the way and play relaxed.”
Yiljep becomes the second Westtown forward in the last two years to commit to a D-I program; fellow African native Daniel Ochefu will be a freshman at Villanova this fall.
“The thing about Yilret is he learns so quickly,” Westtown coach Seth Berger told CoBL at the Hoop Group Team Camp back in July. “He played three minutes a game as a freshman and now he’s a Division I forward. The player he is today, you would not have recognized him from the player he was two years ago and he will be a completely unrecognizable player two years from now.”
If that’s true, Yiljep should be a player to look for as early as his freshman season in the Patriot League.