A number of players who were born outside of the United States have helped the Texas Tech basketball team over the years. Davide Moretti, Brandone Francis, and Clarence Nadolny are all recent fan favorites who were born outside of the United States. Esmir Rizvic, Robert Tomaszek, and Pawel Storozynski were also good big men during the Bob Knight era.
The Red Raiders are now trying to fill out Grant McCasland’s original lineup with players from other countries. Eemeli Yalaho, who is from Finland, made his commitment to Texas Tech official on Friday. This brings the newly-rebuilt school one step closer to its goal of filling all of its scholarships for next season.
Given that he did most of his growing up in Europe, the fact that he is a 6-foot-8 forward who went to a prep school in Ohio and will be a true rookie this season is a bit of a surprise. (Aren’t all real rookies, though, wildcards?)
This summer, Yalaho will play in the FIBA U18 European Championship for his country. The 18-year-old averaged 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists over seven games, showing that he has a well-rounded game that has caught some people’s attention and given him some NCAA chances.
Yalaho also went to Nebraska for an official visit earlier this month, along with Tech. He has received offers from Georgetown, Colorado State, Mississippi State, North Texas, Providence, and Toledo, among others.
There aren’t many movies that show Yalaho at work. In Finland, the high school and club teams don’t get nearly as much attention as they do in the United States.
Still, from what little is known about Yalaho’s game, it seems like he is most comfortable in the lane, where his 230-pound size helps him. He can score both with classic moves in the post and with offensive boards, which Tech needs badly.
He can also shoot from beyond the arc, but his jumper is slow and deliberate, so most of his chances come when he’s wide open and can take his time.
McCasland may be taking a chance on this person, which is the last point. Fans of the Red Raiders might be skeptical of this plan, though, because a lot of overseas players have come to Lubbock in recent years, played for a year or two, and then left.
But that is asking a lot, since few newbies in the Big 12 can do well right away.
Even if Yalaho isn’t a part of the team’s lineup right away, it would be great if the coaches gave him a chance to grow. If not, it would be a waste of a scholarship to bring him in for a year and then let him go in the summer.
Even though this move isn’t likely to shock the college basketball world, it will be a good example of how McCasland works with young, raw talent. So keep an eye on Yalaho while he is at Tech, because he might start a new age of player development there.