Evan Yerkes became the latest player to join Cuonzo Martin’s program as he announced on May 15 that he was joining Missouri as a preferred walk-on.
A 6-foot-3 combo guard, Yerkes fits everything about where Martin is trying to take his program.
He can play multiple positions and space the floor, which fits Martin’s idea of positionless basketball. And Yerkes can shoot the three at a high volume, which Martin’s first team at Missouri did more than any of his previous teams.
“He can play anywhere on the floor,” said Jason Kent, Yerkes’ longtime trainer.
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Yerkes said he shot better than 45 percent for his high school career and broke multiple three-point shooting records at Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Ill., a southwest suburb of Chicago. In January, Yerkes broke the school's career three-point mark with 175.
He passed up Division II and NAIA offers to walk on at Missouri, citing his desire to play at the highest level. Yerkes played AAU basketball for SYF Indiana on the Under Armour circuit.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play Division I basketball,” he said. “Playing in the SEC was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. From everything I’ve heard, Coach Martin’s track record is very impressive.”
Yerkes got on Missouri’s radar thanks to Kent, who has known Martin from his early days of coaching at Purdue and assistant coach Cornell Mann from his playing days in the Mid-American Conference. Mann played at Akron, while Kent played at Ohio.
Kent, who runs Next Level 24 Basketball, a training facility in the Chicago suburbs, reached out to Mann, saying he had a player that fit the direction Mizzou was going. Yerkes has trained with Kent since the sixth grade.
Yerkes had schools like Ball State interested early in his career but he missed crucial parts of the AAU season because of wear-and-tear injuries, such as nagging back pain.
“A lot of people didn’t know who Evan was and what his abilities were,” Kent said. “And they didn’t really see his talent.”
Walk-ons are typically tasked with practice duties — like running the scout team. But this past season, Martin gave both his walk-ons significant playing time, especially graduating senior Brett Rau, who got time in Missouri’s NCAA Tournament game against Florida State. Junior Adam Wolf, a fan favorite for Tigers fans, also saw playing time before tearing his ACL in January.
Yerkes said he’s more than just a three-point shooter and that his ability to get his teammates open and pass are overlooked. Because his high school team lacked size, he played as a power forward and center aside from his regular spot on the wing.
He recently played against fellow Missouri signee Xavier Pinson in a city vs. suburbs all-star game. Pinson played at national powerhouse Simeon Career Academy.
Kent said he expects Martin to be surprised by Yerkes’ play once he’s on campus.
“He’s a gym rat,” Kent said. “He’s going to outwork your best player. That’s his goal.”