Two seasons ago, Stony Brook Men’s Basketball redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah didn’t leave his spot on the bench for the entirety of the season due to the decision to redshirt him. Excluding warm-ups and practice, Yeboah only stepped onto the court to celebrate his team winning the America East Championship and clinching a berth to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
Fast forward to the start of the 2017-18 season: the expectations Yeboah has set for himself are straightforward and to the point. He plans on using the knowledge he learned from the championship-winning team back in the 2015-16 season and translating it into his actions on the court to bring Men’s Basketball the success it tasted two season ago.
“I was able to see what I need to work on in order to play at that level,” Yeboah said. “It kind of gave me a head start from a learning point of view. I felt like it gave me kind of an advantage because now I know what to expect and what to do in the games.”
The forward will look toward his expanded role on the team as a culmination of his career to this point. From perfecting his craft since he first picked up a basketball to the summer where he played for the U-20 Great Britain national team, Yeboah is prepared to become the leader and scorer his coaches are expecting him to be.
Yeboah started his dream just like any kid who imagines becoming a professional athlete – by playing hoops in the street with his family. His brother in particular, Kwame Yeboah, was the first person who ever saw him play basketball and has been credited to be a major influence in Yeboah’s basketball life.
“It was a great feeling. I got to compete alongside my brother,” Kwame Yeboah said. “I got to see my brother grow in confidence in his game. However, it was frustrating when he is as good a rebounder as I was and we both end up fighting over rebounds.”
To this day, Yeboah can be credited as a strong rebounder for his position. His 5.1 rebounds per game was good for second on the team last season, just behind senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant. Head coach Jeff Boals has noticed other areas in Yeboah’s game in both practice and the preseason that he cannot wait to see translate in game situations.
“I think inside, down in the post wise,” Boals said of Yeboah’s areas of improvement. “Last year, we had him play on the perimeter a lot, and he’s one of our best three-point shooters. This summer, while playing for the U-20 Great Britain national team gave him a lot of confidence. So I think the two big things for him are the confidence factor and his post game.”
He averaged 14.3 points with 4.3 rebounds per game over the summer. He shot 49 percent from the field, while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc in seven games for Great Britain.
While he did have a successful freshman year, he lacked consistency at times. From Jan. 5 until Feb. 15, the forward fell into a deep slump, shooting 28.9 percent. During that stretch, Yeboah was out of rhythm to the point of missing wide-open three pointers and non-contested layups.
However, Yeboah believes he has moved past the slump that bogged him down for a month and feels like his confidence is at an all-time high.
“Just confidence and trusting my game and knowing that I can provide a spark offensively and defensively,” Yeboah said about his mentality this season. “The coach’s trust in me has increased, and they’re looking for me to be more of a leader and a scorer. It’s definitely a big step, but I’m ready to take on that role and being the leader and the scorer.”
Yeboah has had the mentality of a leader and a scorer throughout his entire basketball career. Along with crediting his brother as a major influence in his basketball life, he knows of one other person who stuck by him since day one.
Winifred Yeboah, his mother, has been his biggest fan since the day he picked up a basketball for the first time. However, she has always been afraid to watch both of her sons play.
“She was always there supporting me,” Yeboah said. “She always knew where my heart was, so she continued to push me and encourage me to be the best I can be.”
“The first time I actually watched both Akwasi and Kwame play was during one of their regional finals Final Four and I barely lasted five minutes as I was so apprehensive and could see my heartbeat through my clothing,” Winifred said. “I have not been brave to watch a full video of [Akwasi’s] games even when the event has passed. I have promised to visit and watch his game in the future but I’ll need ear plugs and dark glasses for that.”
Despite never watching the games, she takes her role as mom, basketball coach and life coach very seriously.
Winifred went on to explain how Akwasi’s coach told her that he was one of the worst players on the team when he first joined. While Yeboah took that news to heart and started getting down on himself, his mother offered him words of advice.
“Shake it off and move on,” Winifred said. “Don’t let anyone predict the outcome of your life. You are your own genie. Akwasi often felt like throwing in the towel, but I encouraged him with three words: purpose, passion and practice.”
Yeboah plans on approaching this season with a sense of purpose and playing with a passion that will hopefully bring Stony Brook an America East Championship. Just like his mother always told him.