(Photo of Gus Yalden via University of Louisville Athletics)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Louisville men's basketball head coach Chris Mack didn't waste any time extending a scholarship offer to Gus Yalden when he arrived in town for his unofficial visit with the Cardinals on June 24. In fact, as soon as the visit started, Mack offered the Class of 2023 post prospect.
The offer might be new for the 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward/center, but the interest from Louisville is not. The coaching staff has been in contact with Yalden and his family since his freshman year with Asheville (N.C.) School.
"Louisville made me a priority early, so my mom and I made it a priority to get to campus and meet the people we have been talking to for over a year," Yalden told Louisville Report. "The coaches wanted to make my time on campus really special, and told me to be excited about coming down there. Louisville Basketball definitely didn’t disappoint!"
Yalden, also known by his nickname 'Gus Bus', came away from the visit with a "good idea about what it would be like if I ended up there in a couple of years", and that being able to see the campus "made the experience even more real" for him.
Newly promoted assistant coach Kahil Fennell has been his primary recruiter during the process, and has been Yalden's "day one and pretty much my only contact" for nearly a year and a half. Prior to coaches being able to reach out to recruits on their own, Yalden's trainer Shea Frazee helped facilitate the contact between the two.
"Honestly, we talk about lots of stuff other than basketball," Yalden said. "My dog, golf, fishing, workouts, travel, goals, grades, football, pretty much anything that might be going on is a conversation topic."
Of course, when he arrived on campus, Yalden was quickly familiarized with the rest of the coaching staff. He particularly enjoyed getting to know newly hired assistant coach Ross McMains, complimenting his high basketball IQ and saying McMains has a "unique and exciting vision for utilizing a player like me".
Now a nationally ranked recruit for the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., two factors that have stood out the most to Yalden while on visits: the message and vibe from the strength and conditioning coach, and the skills/player development coach's plan for him. The Cardinals checked both boxed for him.
"Louisville had a clear plan for my physical development, but also my player development," he said. "It takes time to put those plans together, so I definitely appreciate and value those conversations.
"No matter who the coach has been, Louisville Basketball program has had a winning tradition. The program has a history filled with success, and that allows coaches and players to come in and win almost immediately. The people may change but the mission and culture have not."
A native of Appleton, Wisc., he is a top target for the in-state Badgers, and told 247Sports in March that he wants to be "somewhere close to my family, so I can have them at my games supporting me". However, that does not necessarily rule out Louisville landing Yalden.
'My family lives in Wisconsin, Colorado, Nebraska and South Carolina. Plus my dad has been with the military in Germany since I was in 6th grade. I’m used to living outside of Wisconsin," he said.
There's also a regional connection. His mother played basketball at Northern Kentucky, and is best friends with NKU Hall of Famer Katie Kelsey Cluxton. They have stayed close with the Kelseys, and have visited their family in Cincinnati.
"Being an hour and a half from Cincinnati would pretty much be like being home," Yalden said. Since June 15, he says Wisconsin, Louisville, Butler, Virginia, Gonzaga, Marquette, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Wake Forest have been in touch the most.
Regarded as both a power forward and center by various recruiting services, Yalden is considered the No. 32 recruit in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite. During his sophomore season for IMG Academy, he averaged eight points and eight rebounds per game.
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