April 11, 2021

Bolingbrook’s Yesufu lands at Kansas

2018 Herald News Player of the Year quickly finds new home

Every player that enters the transfer portal usually does so with some trepidation.

It was no different for Bolingbrook graduate Joseph Yesufu when he made the decision to leave Drake.

Fortunately for Yesufu that emotion quickly changed from trepidation to elation as a number of schools expressed interest in Yesufu and one of college basketball’s blue bloods, Kansas, quickly joined the list of potential suitors.

And while Yesufu was interested in and engaged with many schools that offered him an opportunity, when Kansas called, Yesufu listened. And soon thereafter, he committed to transferring from Drake to Kansas.

“When I entered the portal on Thursday, Coach Self hit me up on Friday,” Yesufu said. “And he really wanted [me] to come to Kansas, and he was really excited about it.”

Yesufu expected to draw some interest from schools based on his strong play at the end of his sophomore year at Drake, but he admitted receiving immediate interest from Kansas was a bit surprising.

“I was shocked, and I was extremely happy. I mean, its Coach Self, he’s a legend,” Yesufu said. “I’m just very proud that he hit me up and my family is very happy as well. It was definitely a great experience.”

It has been a whirlwind month for Yesufu. He helped power a late push to get Drake into the NCAA Tournament. Exactly 50 years to the date of Drake’s last NCAA Tournament win, Yesufu led Drake with 21 points as he played all 40 minutes of a contest that ended in an exciting 53-52 win for the Bulldogs over Wichita State.

“It was very exciting. We were happy we made it to the tournament. We hadn’t been to the tournament since 2008, and we hadn’t won a game in 50 years,” Yesufu said. “We made the most of our experience there.”

He also drew national attention during the game when he threw down a monster dunk during the victory.

“It’s been very busy,” Yesufu said. “It has been a different experience, but I’m just happy it has been this kind of experience, not a lot of people get to experience this. I’m very grateful and blessed. I’m not going to say I’m stressed because I’m not. This has really just been a great experience for me.”

Yesufu broke out over the second half of the season for Drake in his sophomore campaign. After scoring 32 and 36 points in games in mid-February, he ran though the final eight games of the season, including two tournament games, averaging about 24 points a game and playing on average about 38 minutes a game.

Yesufu holds no ill will towards Drake but felt the opportunity to expand his horizons was something he couldn’t ignore.

“It was definitely hard for me to tell the Drake coaches that I was leaving,” Yesufu said. “It was a very tough decision for me, but the ultimate decision for me was that I just want to keep getting better as a player and as a person.”

Kansas was among many major programs that reached out to Yesufu during the transfer process, including Georgia, USC, Arizona State, Texas and Wisconsin. And while he explored the potential opportunities that many schools provided, Kansas proved too alluring for Yesufu to pass up.

“Honestly, it was the environment in Kansas. I’ve been watching them since I was a little kid,” Yesufu said. “It was a combination of those things that made me want to go there.”

When Yesufu entered the transfer portal he had no idea how swiftly things would change and how quickly he’d end up with one of the more marquee programs in the nation.

“It was way beyond my expectations,” Yesufu said. “I expected to hear from a few schools. I didn’t know that Kansas would call. That was very shocking to me, but definitely a blessing.”

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.