Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran almost always are linked in regards to the Bolingbrook basketball program.
It seems like it’s always been that way.
And while the dynamic duo certainly hopes to extend their pairing to a deep postseason run over the course of the next month, it is a partnership that has reaped heavy rewards for the Raiders’ program over the past four years.
“They have been on the varsity for four years, both of them, and at a school like ours and a program like ours, that is hard to do,” Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. “And to have the two of them do it at the same time and have them both going over 1,000 points, and to both being the winningest players ever to play at this school. From a basketball standpoint, it’s obviously going to be hard to replace them, but almost more so from the people perspective. They are two of the best kids and citizens to come out of this school, and that’s even more refreshing than the basketball part.”
And the basketball part has been pretty incredible, too.
Yesufu, who will continue his career at Drake University next fall, is averaging more than 19 points a game and has averaged double digit scoring for almost his entire career at Bolingbrook. Cochran, who is headed to Northern Illinois next year, currently averages 12 points and eight rebounds, while still rounding into form after suffering a broken finger that took away nearly half of his senior season.
But if you asked either of them for a statistical breakdown of their numbers, they likely couldn’t tell you with any accuracy.
“Our coaches really emphasize that from the very beginning they want us to play team ball. One man can’t just do it all for us, its a team effort,” Yesufu said. “We love to see everyone else doing well. We love to see other people score. It isn’t about just one person.”
Cochran’s perspective was forced to change when he was sidelined by an injury and wanted nothing more than to be able to contribute on the court. He did exactly what you would expect from a player who understands there’s always something you can do to help the team.
“I had to be a good teammate. Fortunately, my teammates stepped up, and everyone helped me get through it,” Cochran said. “I felt like I could encourage them, having been up here as long as I have, knowing what it takes to be successful. Seeing things that maybe they don’t see, being able to help them out.”
That willingness to put the team first is a common theme with the Raiders, but the tools to make that work aren’t always immediately present with many high school athletes. But in the case of Cochran and Yesufu, both of whom were in the rare position of being elevated to the varsity as freshman and contributing regularly, both were quickly on board.
“You’re never really sure when you do it. We’ve had experiences before where we’ve brought up freshman, and they went back down because they weren’t ready,” Brost said. “But both of them bring so many intangibles that are hard to teach, and they had them right from the beginning.”
But now time that seemed to have no expiration date quickly is coming to an end. Both Yesufu and Cochran plan to squeeze every drop out of what they have left.
“It still feels like I’m I freshman sometimes,” Cochran said. “It hasn’t really hit me, even now, that I’m the senior. I’m the big dog. I keep telling these guys that this only comes once in a lifetime. You only get to do this once, so I have to keep giving it my all.”
Yesufu is more succinct.
“I’m trying to make the most of it all,” Yesufu said. “Our goal is a state championship.”
And while the Raiders almost certainly will enter the postseason as a No. 1 seed in the East Aurora Sectional and have a target on their back for their entire postseason run, there’s no one Brost would rather go to battle with than his current crew.
“They’ve leaned on each other, knowingly or not knowingly, on and off the floor,” Brost said. “Neither one of them is selfish, and they show genuine concern for their teammates. And that’s rare to find in 17-year olds. They are special players and special people.”