Yelverton storms into limelight
Published 10:16 pm Saturday, December 14, 2013
Nansemond River High School sophomore off-guard Aneka Yelverton has gone from being a minor presence last year to her team’s de facto leader right out of the gate this season.
She put up 20 points and three steals in a 57-45 season-opening road win against Grassfield High School, which gave Calvin Mason the 100th win of his tenure as Lady Warriors head coach. Though Friday’s game was a 55-46 road loss to Great Bridge High School, she still produced a team-leading 16 points, with three 3-pointers.
For her play in the first game of the season, Yelverton earned the title of Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week.
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Her high numbers have been encouraing, she said.
“It feels really good,” she said. “I worked really hard over the summer.”
The Aneka Yelverton of this season is very much a reaction to the version that moved up to varsity last year. She started as a freshman, but only averaged about five points.
“Everybody was saying to me, ‘Aneka you’ve got it,’” Yelverton said, but she was frustrated that her play on the court was not living up to expectations.
“I don’t think she was prepared for the adjustment last year, how hard it was going to be,” said Niketa Bailey, Yelverton’s mother.
Yelverton said, “I was really kind of scared last year, just to play and make mistakes.”
Mason said that while Aneka was in over her head as a freshman starter, she did not let the experience kill her zeal for the game.
“She took it as a challenge,” he said.
Bailey added, “She just worked really, really hard in the off-season,” nearly six days a week. She spent hours upon hours in the gym, working with Mason to improve her game. She played in summer and fall leagues and also played for an Amateur Athletic Union team.
“Just all those things tied in to help me build my confidence,” Yelverton said.
Bailey is the one who helps fuel her fire when Yelverton takes the court.
“My mom definitely motivates me,” Yelverton said. “If I think about quitting, or something is not going right, she helps me through it.”
It was also Mom who helped get her started in the sport.
When she was around the age of nine, Yelverton remembers her mother telling her, “’You need to do something with your life.’ I was always at home.”
She had an obvious early advantage in the sports of basketball.
“I was really, really, really tall. Taller than everybody,” Yelverton said, who is now 5’7”.
In the fourth grade, she started playing recreational league basketball, and because of her height, Bailey said, “She always had to play with the boys.”
Bailey said Yelverton really started taking the sport seriously in middle school and by the time she joined girls’ teams, she was a bit ahead of many players.
She played for AAU teams, rec leagues and was a key member of the Suffolk Lady Storm.
Bailey is proud of the new levels her daughter is reaching in her sophomore year of high school.
“I’m glad that she can see what putting in hard work does for her,” Bailey said.
After observing her dedication in the off-season, Mason said, “I came into the season with high expectations that she was capable of what she’s doing now.”
Yelverton is clear about what she wants to do in the future.
“I want to play college ball — Division I, of course,” she said.
If she continues to be so dedicated to the sport, Mason said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that she’ll reach that goal.”