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Preferred walk-on Evan Yerkes is bringing hot shooting, high expectations to Mizzou

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Evan Yerkes has been shooting the lights out in the Chicago suburbs for four years. He’s hoping to make that same impact in Columbia.

Evan Yerkes (Twitter: @beefyerkey)

“Shooter!”

To me, that word is almost indistinguishable from high school basketball gyms. The air, a briny mixture of sweat and Gatorade, buzzing with the excitement of both highly competitive parents and gossipy high-schoolers is briefly pierced by the cries of coaches and players on either bench.

“Shooter!”

It’s an unmistakeable feeling ago anyone who either played or was invested in high school basketball. That guy is open. That guy is getting the ball. And that guy never seems to miss. Not against your team, anyway.

Evan Yerkes is that guy. The dreaded, “Shooter!” you always heard about from your high school coach.

“My family and I joke that I came out of the womb dribbling,” Yerkes said of his start in basketball. “[I spent] hours and hours in the gym with my pops spent perfecting my craft and shooting the rock.”

It shows. When you watch that above tape, pay attention to the contrasting reactions of each bench when Yerkes shoots. Notice the resignation in the opposing player’s shoulder slouches, the bowing heads or hurried reactions of other coaches.

Compare that to the reactions of his teammates when the ball leaves his fingertips. Each player is up, most with their hands in the air. It’s not unlike when many other great shooters let it fly. They know what’s going to happen; they’re just waiting to react.

That ability - marked by his 14 points per game and 41 percent shooting from beyond the arc - allowed him to tally quite a few things to put on his high school resume. He’s Victor J. Andrew’s all-time leader in three-pointers made in a game, a season, and a career.

“I would say my most memorable experiences have been scoring 28 points on a broken foot [author’s note: I never scored 28 points on a broken foot, but I did get a steal and layup after rolling my ankle once] winning conference for the second time in school history senior year and also going down to state for the 3pt contest,” Yerkes said. It’s an impressive list of accomplishments, especially outside of the traditional Chicago-area basketball powerhouses. But when the offers started rolling in from D-II and NAIA schools, Yerkes had his sights set on a higher prize.

“It’s always been a dream and goal of mine to play at the highest level I could,” Yerkes said. “But more towards junior year, multiple coaches felt with my work ethic and potential, that I could play at the highest level.”

That dream was realized about a month ago, when Yerkes got in touch with Cuonzo Martin. Yerkes said Martin’s impressive coaching record and, “all of the good things said about Coach Martin and the staff,” were enough for him to pull the trigger on a preferred walk-on spot.

Yerkes got on board at just the right time too. A few weeks later, Martin’s team would get the added boost of Jontay Porter coming back for his sophomore year. One day later, 3-star recruit Parker Braun also committed as a PWO. Along with Ronnie Suggs, Yerkes could become part of a class of walk-ons that are aiming to make a bigger impact than their titles would suggest. And he’s hoping to do it by proving he’s more than just the shooter.

“Obviously my shooting is a clear strength, but I would say my IQ is my biggest strength,” Yerkes said. “I also believe my passing and ability to get my teammates involved is underrated.”

And while he hits in the gym and classroom this summer, Yerkes is hoping to meet his new coaches’ expectations and round out his entire game.

“[The coaches] feel I can bring a hard work ethic, perimeter scoring threat, along with energy and focus,” he said. “I would say I need to improve my defense, as most freshmen do, but also get stronger and adjust to the pace of the game.”

So the next time you’re at Mizzou Arena and you hear an opposing fan or coach scream, “Shooter!” keep an eye out for Evan Yerkes. He’s coming to Columbia with the hopes that he can strike the same fear in SEC coaches that he did for the past four years in Tinley Park, Illinois.