Tom Archdeacon: Yoho finds a home at Wright State

Early in his freshman year at Wright State, J.T. Yoho wanted to go back to Solsberry, his tiny hometown in Indiana.

“I remembering calling my mom and dad and telling them, ‘I can’t do this. I want to come home!’” Yoho said Thursday night.

“I was really homesick. I was struggling. Growing up where I did, I was used to being the best and then all of a sudden here I wasn’t.”

Back at Eastern Greene High School, he had started every basketball game since he was a freshman and finished his career with 1,504 points, the second most in school history.

To say he was a big fish in a small pond is almost an understatement.

“My town is very little,” he said. “Very, very little. There’s the Yoho General Store that’s been there a long time and a post office, a little hair salon and the fire department. That’s it. We don’t even have a stop light any more.”

And his is the predominant family in the town.

The Yoho General Store has been in the same building over 80 years. The gym at the old high school – now the middle school – is named after his cousin, Toby Yoho, the coach who died of cancer.

His mom, then known as Sandi Watkins, ended up the second-leading scorer in girls basketball history at Eastern Greene, which is some 10 miles away.

“She was really good,” Yoho said. “She scored over 1,000 points when there wasn’t a three-point line. Imagine if she had had that! She was a great shooter.”

She later became a coach at a nearby school and now she’s the athletic director and assistant principal at J.T.’s old middle school.

His town is 20 minutes southwest of Bloomington, so he grew up a huge Indiana University and Bob Knight fan and one day hoped to play for the Hoosiers.

“They looked at me when I was a freshman point guard,” he said. “But then that AAU season I got mono and never played.”

Although he grew from 6-foot-1 to 6-5, few people noticed the growth spurt: “I had been on the radar of some Big Ten schools, and Butler, too, but when I didn’t play AAU ball I had to count on my exposure with small school ball and I dropped off a lot of people lists.”

Wright State, thanks in part, he believes, to a former Raiders’ player, Alex Pritchett, who had played at a nearby school, learned of him and stayed with him and finally became his best option.

But when he came here, he knew no one and soon wanted to go back home.

“I wasn’t used to the practices, the weight room, none of it,” he admitted. “Everything was harder, more intense, longer. It took a toll on my body.”

But when he called home, he said his parents gave him one answer: “They said, ‘Yeah, yeah, but it’s gonna get better.’”

They were right.

Just look at Thursday night.

Yoho finished with a game-high 29 points and a team-high eight rebounds as the Raiders hung on to edge Milwaukee, 84-83, at the Nutter Center.

Four days earlier, in a 75-68 loss at Detroit, Yoho scored a career-high 31 points.

The 6-foot-6 senior forward has now scored 1,060 points at WSU, the 30th player in school history to top the 1,000 point mark.

Now that he’s healthy again – after knee problems sidelined him half of last year and hampered him in the early part of this season – he has become the team’s go-to player, as was evident against the Panthers.

“The one guy on the team – in this game – that couldn’t get into foul trouble was J.T. Yoho,” WSU coach Billy Donlon said. “He only had one foul and his ability to stay in the game was crucial tonight.”

Yoho had 21 points in the first half as WSU built a 20-point lead. He played a whopping 39 minutes against the Panthers and admitted his legs tired in the second half.

Still he finished 10 of 21 from the floor and 4 for 6 from three-point range.

“I did feel in a zone there for a while,” he smiled.

Senior point guard Joe Thomasson saw it, too

“I could tell it right away. He made quick decisions. He just doesn’t think, he plays. And when he gets in that zone he’s hard to stop.

“I’d hate to guard him or game plan for him. He’s so versatile. He’s a mismatch. He’s a problem for the guards and too small for the bigs (to handle). Credit him for really developing his game here.”

So, as it turns out Yoho has found a home here.

But, he added, he’s been able to go back home again, too.

“Oh yeah, I’m in the general store,” he said with a smile. “Right next to the pictures of my grandparents who started it – Pearl and Cotton – they got a picture of me and my Wright State uniform too.

“That’s pretty cool.”

Like his folks said, it would get better.

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