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01/18/2023 09:00 AM

Yermenson Doing Yeoman’s Work for Valley Hoops

Senior captain and guard Andrew Yermenson has developed an inside game while becoming a well-rounded player for the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team. Photo courtesy of Andrew Yermenson

Basketball may have come into Andrew Yermenson’s athletic field of vision a little later in life, yet he has certainly made up for any lost time by being all-in to the game year-round and has emerged as a balanced, well-rounded, and consummate player and leader for the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team — continuing to develop new phases of his game even in his final year.

The senior shooting guard and team captain has always had a love for football since he was little, as he was also a wide receiver and safety for the Class SS state runner-up Warriors on the gridiron in 2022. Though as he grew older, his family inquired about him potentially trying his hand with hoops.

Andrew took to the court quite well, playing in summer camps and AAU ball, and has come out of it as a 2-guard averaging 12 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per contest this campaign for 4-5 Valley.

“I have always felt like there was a closer team connection with basketball since there are only five guys on the court and with ball movement being so key,” says Andrew. “Every summer, I spent a lot of time at basketball camps when I was younger, and then I also started playing AAU during the spring. I created bonds with guys and kept working up to now. The camps let me see people all over the place, so I could gauge myself versus others. With AAU, having games left and right, plus the tournaments, and also having full-court presses at 8 a.m. helped me get better.”

Andrew has cemented himself as a sharpshooter during his tenure with the Warriors, though the composition of this year’s club lent itself to him finding a new element to his abilities driving to the hole and drawing contact.

“I have always been a perimeter player,” Andrew says. “Last year, we had guys who could drive to the basket, so this season, I had to take a bigger role with driving. I have been evolving my game with driving, drawing fouls, and passing. I had to trust myself, and [Head Coach Kevin Woods] tells me that if you get a shot blocked, it is not the end of the world. I just have to finish with contact and not have fear of missing a layup.”

In the backcourt, there may be plays where Andrew may not be involved, yet the Warriors produce points. Still, that is OK in his eyes because those are the moments that test his mental maturation.

“I feel like the toughest moments are plays where I do not touch the ball,” Andrew says. “But it is about staying mentally focused. You have to do something positive with those plays. Yet it is rewarding when you get the ball and make a shot or an assist because you started that play.”

From the sidelines, Woods has witnessed first-hand how far Andrew has come as an athlete and young man–being a Warrior who can beat you in a multitude of ways on both ends of the floor.

“Andrew has put in an incredible amount of work this offseason to make himself a better basketball player and athlete,” says Woods. “Football has helped him be more physical and aggressive, but his persistence on the court to improve every day is what sets him apart. He loves basketball, and you can see it in the way he plays. He’s obviously a threat to score, but his defensive game has been really outstanding. He is a very well-rounded player.”

Being humbled by the honor of being named a captain, Andrew adores the opportunity to mold and mentor the future of the Warriors’ program and leave his indelible mark.

“I think being captain is a great privilege because you get to coach the younger kids and teach them how to be the best player they can be,” says Andrew. “It is great to mentor them and see them succeed and then see it transition to how well we play together as a team.”

The Warriors did stumble out to a slow 1-5 start through the December portion of their regular-season slate. Still, Andrew and his teammates took the holiday reprieve to reassess the state of the squad and returned to rattle off three consecutive Shoreline Conference triumphs.

“Some of the guys from the football team got here late [due to the state finals run], so it took time to build that trust and relationships within the team,” Andrew says. “We took the break during Christmas, and we knew we had to turn it around. We have built up more trust through practices, and it has shown. Our mentality and morale as a team has won us games.”

Playing on the championship turf with the Valley-Old Lyme football squad has bolstered Andrew’s confidence in the clutch, and he looks to parlay that into even grander successes with his winter club.

“The football season was great this year, even if we did not get the finish we wanted,” Andrew says. “We were underdogs, but we found out what it was like to play on a big stage, and it will transfer to any sport. I want to make every second and minute worthwhile here and remember all these great experiences on this team now.”