Exclusive Player Spotlight: Will Yoakum

Another mid-game picture taken off of Will Yoakum’s profile on Hilltopper Sports.

Fresh off an Elite Eight appearance during the shortened 2020-21 season, the West Liberty University men’s basketball team looks to continue their success for the upcoming 2021-22 season. Last year’s tournament success was the deepest postseason run the team has experienced since the 2015-16 season, in which they were defeated by a single point in the Final Four by Lincoln Memorial University. Last year, the Hilltoppers were led by some familiar faces fans have been privileged to watch throughout their career in the trio of Dalton Bolon, Patrick Robinson, and Will Yoakum. However, with the transfer of Dalton Bolon to a Division I program, College of Charleston, the Hilltoppers will now be primarily led by the duo of Robinson and Yoakum.

This week’s senior player spotlight is team captain and Redshirt Senior, Will Yoakum. Yoakum has had one of the most prolific basketball careers during his time with the black and gold. After his massive success at Delaware Hayes, Yoakum received a redshirt his first year with the team. During his Redshirt Freshman year, Yoakum saw immediate success, as he was named the Mountain East Conference Freshman of the Year, a Division II Bulletin Freshman All-American, and was named to the Second Team All-MEC team. During that season, he logged an average of 24 minutes per game and 14 points per game.

Yoakum’s continual improvement bled into his Redshirt Sophomore year, as he was honored for his efforts with a First Team-All MEC selection, an MEC All-Tournament team selection, and a MEC Tournament MVP award. During his breakout season, he averaged 26 minutes and team high 18 points per game.

Unfortunately, Will Yoakum suffered a horrendous setback in what otherwise was shaping to be another enormous leap during his Redshirt Junior season. About midway through the season, Yoakum suffered a season ending knee injury while on the court. Before the injury, he saw himself averaging about 24 minutes per game and 16 points per game. What is most impressive about this is that, despite the injury, Will still managed to be named to the MEC All-Academic Team, MEC All-Tournament Team, and a First Team All-MEC selection.

Now on the comeback train, Will looks to make what appears to be his last season his best one yet. Even with the departure of many big faces from last year’s West Liberty team, this year’s squad is perhaps one of the most well rounded teams the black and gold has had in awhile, and Yoakum is front and center. The sport management and marketing double major, Yoakum first found an interest in basketball after going to various high school games when he was in elementary and middle school.

When asked about what his favorite moment has been playing basketball at West Liberty University thus far, Yoakum said that, “my favorite memory is winning the conference tournament my sophomore year at WLU.” Understandably, that moment was terrific for Will and his team. His All-Tournament efforts helped WLU earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, defeating the University of Concord, West Virginia State University, and the University of Charleston in the process. That year, WLU was set to match up against Virginia State University in the NCAA Tournament before the eventual cancellation of the tournament ended the season due to COVID-19.

When asked about his expectations for the beginning of this season, and how those expectations translate to the team’s overall vision for this year, Yoakum replied and stated that, “my expectations are high for this team. With this being my 5th season I know what a championship team looks like and I think we are getting there. We want to make it back to the Elite Eight after getting a taste of it last year.” It will take more than only Yoakum to return to the NCAA Tournament, and when asked what teammate has impressed him the most during the offseason, Will said, “all of my teammates work hard everyday, but Ben Sarson is someone who is always in the gym shooting and working on his game. It shows on the court how much better he has gotten since last season.” Sarson, entering his sophomore season, looks to make the massive leap for the Hilltoppers season.
With one final ride for Yoakum and the Hilltoppers, he looks to make this season his most memorable yet. After college, Yoakum wants to continue playing basketball professionally.