By Tom Ballato
Will Yeguete grew up in Abidjan, the largest city and capital of the Ivory Coast. His family moved to France when he was ten years old.
Yeguete played basketball and soccer as a kid with the influence of his father and older brother.
At the age of fifteen, Yeguete attended Five-Star Basketball Camp in Washington, D.C. “I played well, and after the camp, I had interest from schools in the U.S and AAU teams, but I went back home to France.”
A few years later, he returned to the United States to play high school basketball at Florida Air Academy. Coming back to the states was an easy choice for Yeguete and his family. “It was a boarding/military school. My dad loved the idea. It was coached by Aubin Goporo (a former player of the Central African Republic team like his father). My other option was in D.C., but Florida Air Academy was a better fit for me. It was an international school, and a lot of kids that played there went to D1 schools.”
He averaged a double-double his senior year, and St. John’s, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Sam Houston State, and University of Florida were all interested in him. He chose University of Florida but was close to going to Indiana, according to Yeguete.
Yeguete, who was a three-star forward, joined the Florida Gators’ 2010 recruiting class that featured Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, and Casey Prather (all who he still remains in touch with). When asked why he chose Florida, Yeguete responded, “Well, I was already going to high school in Florida, so I wanted to stay in the state if I could. Also, coach (Billy) Donovan was a big factor, as well as coach Lanier. I really liked coach Donovan’s vision and passion. Joakim Noah went there, and he told me that he has an amazing experience there with Coach Donovan.”
While at Florida, Yeguete went from playing sparingly as a freshman (7.1 minutes per game) to starting every game as a senior. Florida was the #1 team in the country during his senior year. His most memorable games as a Gator were during his senior year. His fondest memories as a Gator include his senior night at home against Kentucky, Florida won and went 18-0 in the conference. Another memorable game for Yeguete, was the finals of the SEC Tournament in 2014. In the final of the SEC Tournament, Florida was up one point against Kentucky and got a defensive stop on the final possession of the game and won.
In his four seasons with the Gators, he averaged 4.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Coach Billy Donovan helped him and his teammates grow as players on and off the court. When speaking about coach Donovan, Yeguete said, “He was great and was passionate as a coach. Coach Donovan would challenge us every day and was more than a coach to his players and me. I think the fact that he was genuine and helpful off the court made us great. He helped me grow as a player by challenging me every day. He would have an approach to the game that was different and made me understand how I could impact the game. He also helped me to grow as a man.”
After graduating from Florida, he returned home to France and began his professional career. In college, he would only return home during the summer, and he wanted to change that.
He has spent the last six seasons in France’s top league (LNB Pro A). Yeguete has worked on understanding the game and how he can be more efficient and impactful, both offensively and defensively. When speaking about France’s LNB Pro A League, he said, “It’s athletic and challenging. A lot of surprises any given night in the league. You are allowed up to six foreigners on your team, and there’s more talent, especially younger talent, to be honest.”
Yeguete has suited up for multiple clubs during his tenure in France; STB Le Havre, Pau-Orthez, Le Mans Sarthe Basket, and AS Monaco Basket. He was named French LNB Pro A Most Improved Player in 2015-2016 and won a championship in 2018 with Le Mans Sarthe Basket.
This season he played for AS Monaco Basket, who tied for first place with a record of 21-4 before the season was canceled. Yeguete averaged 7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and led his team in rebounds. He has one year left remaining on his contract with AS Monaco Basket.
Basketball around the world has been canceled due to the coronavirus, but Yeguete is still contributing off the court. “When the virus started, I just thought I could help,” claimed Yeguete. He’s volunteered with the Red Cross by grocery shopping and delivering the groceries to people who can’t shop themselves. “Also, I’ve helped the association “Les Anges Gardiens de Monaco” to collect food and donations (money, sleeping bags, or any donation) and give them to the people in need.”
Yeguete continues to grow on and off the court back home in France, taking with him everything he learned at Florida.