Sean Yoder (above) had the best game of his freshman season on Wednesday, scoring 19 points in a win at Lehigh. (Photo: Justin LaFleur/Lehigh Athletics)
Hannah Edwards (@hanedwards5)
In the Patriot League men’s basketball matchup of Lehigh vs. Navy, a booming applause and echoing cheers filled Stabler Arena as Sean Yoder, freshman Naval Academy guard and former Pennridge standout, entered the competition with around 14 minutes left in the first half.
The night was special, as 40 community members came out to support their hometown basketball hero. According to Dean Behrens, Pennridge’s head basketball coach, anticipation built up throughout the town during the week prior to the game.
“It was like the prodigal son coming home,” Behrens said.
Not only did the community support Yoder, but they watched him flourish on the court – distributing the ball swiftly, controlling the offense with confidence and looking composed during high-pressure situations.
Ironically, Yoder didn’t hear the boisterous noise of cheers erupting with every basket he scored.
“I’m trying to cancel out the noise as much as possible,” Yoder said. “When you’re on the floor you don’t hear too much. You’re locked in and focused.”
This intense concentration enabled Yoder to rack up 19 points, three assists and a large crowd of smiling faces clapping as he walked out from the locker room after an 88-83 Naval Academy win.
After the game, Yoder was able to focus on something else – the people he cares about most.
“It’s just a testament to my family, community and all the people back home that always show out for me and support me,” Yoder said. “It’s great to see them all out here and means a lot to me.”
Yoder hugged almost everyone in attendance and signed memorabilia for around 20 9-year-old Deep Run youth players, who were fortunate enough to play a quick game at half time in their royal blue and white uniforms.
These moments set Yoder apart.
Yoder’s consistent character, genuine appreciation and personal morals enable him to succeed in anything he does in life – on and off the court.
Behrens admits he’s seen these qualities in Yoder through all the years he’s known him. After a tough loss in the state finals last year, Behrens recalls Yoder giving his medal to a student with a disability.
“He understands he’s gifted athletically, which is something other people might not have,” Behrens said. “He’s appreciative of it all. Everybody doesn’t have what he has.”
Navy coach Ed DeChellis also recognizes special qualities within Yoder, even though he’s only spent a few months coaching him. According to DeChellis, Yoder is mature, works hard on and off the court and has handled the adjustment to the Naval Academy very well. He said it’s a pleasure to coach Yoder.
“I’m really proud of him,” DeChellis said. “He’s an unbelievable person with his morals and values, and I’m so happy he had a great night tonight here in front of his family and friends.”
At Pennridge High School, Yoder led the Rams to an appearance in the PIAA 6A state championship game as a senior. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
These morals and values have allowed Yoder to persevere when times get tough.
He admits that his freshman year has been challenging, but it’s something that he cannot put into words to describe.
“It’s something that you have to experience yourself,” Yoder said. “It’s different.”
Yoder said he embraces the challenges and grinds through them, especially with such supportive teammates. He also said he relies on the Lord – putting his faith and fully leaning on Him when faced with adversity.
Even after the best performance he’s had individually this season, Yoder said the team always comes first. As a point guard, his goal is to play for the team – getting other players open shots, rebounding the ball and playing with energy every time he steps onto the court.
He is selfless.
Yoder’s performance against the Mountain Hawks embodied a team-first mentality and set a precedent for the young basketball players watching in awe of his every move.
According to Behrens, it gives future basketball players hope to be like Yoder. It’s great for the youth to see someone from Pennridge be successful at the Division I level because it’s so inspiring, he said.
With success comes higher standards.
According to DeChellis, the expectations rise.
“This is a breakout game for him,” DeChellis said. “If you can do it once, you can do it twice, three times, four times. He knows that. He wants to compete. He wants to do well.”
This competitive nature and high-standard atmosphere is what originally brought Yoder’s attention to the Naval Academy to continue his career. It’s prestige, plentiful opportunities presented and service to the country led him to choose Navy.
He said it’s the best decision he could have ever made.
According to Yoder, the unwavering support from his family and the community led him to this point in his career. They provide a strong motivation for him to continue to excel.
“My family back home is what keeps me going – from my two brothers, younger sister and my parents to all the people that support me back home,” Yoder said. “They’ve seen me grow up and come into the man and player I am today. Playing for them is what it comes down to for me.”
Focusing on the people he loves and the present provides Yoder a way to deal with the multiple external factors being thrown his way as a Naval Academy student-athlete.
To continue his success, he prefers to keep it simple.
“I’m just trying to get through tomorrow,” Yoder said.