Leaving his parents and brothers behind in the summer of 2015, redshirt freshman Alexis Yetna arrived in the U.S. and was eager to show America his evolving international game.
The 6-foot-8-inch forward enjoys numbers, but not only the kind that tells how well he played on a given night. While basketball is a priority in his life, the economics major focuses on inflation, profit and loss, as well as points and rebounds.
“I am pretty good at math,” Yetna said. “I like math because it engages me. It makes me feel great to problem solve.”
It is the opponents that play against Yetna that are having a hard time problem-solving.
Yetna has already been named AAC Freshman of the Week three times this season. He works to put himself in the right place at the right time and brings energy and production to each game.
“You can’t teach the knack he has to get the ball,” coach Brian Gregory said in a press conference at the beginning of January. “I would really like to take credit for it, but I can’t. That’s an internal ability that he has.”
Growing up near Paris, Yetna’s first love was soccer. As he grew and his basketball skills developed, he decided to forge down a different path. Instead of using his feet, he would use his hands, and he does it with humility.
“When I was younger, soccer was what I liked to play more than anything,” Yetna said. “I began to get better at basketball. I never thought of myself as a star, I only want to improve every year.”
As Yetna became older, and the more he grew, the confidence in his basketball skill-set became greater with every accomplishment. Yetna was named to the FIBA U-20 team, representing France and won a bronze medal with the team in 2017. Though Yetna has achieved success, it hasn’t always been easy.
“I had to persevere many times in my basketball career,” Yetna said. “Twice I was cut from French club teams. Once was club team Orleans and again with Paris-Levallois.”
Yetna recalls his time with the French U-20 team as some of the best basketball he has been a part of on the world stage. While he enjoyed his time in France, Yetna is excited about the freedom that the American game of basketball provides.
“It was amazing to play for the U-20 team,” Yetna said. “I feel like the American game allows me to be more creative. The European basketball game is very structured. In America, you have the ability to make more instinctive plays.”
Yetna’s game has a blend of speed and power. He is the AAC leader in rebounding and has recorded 10 double-doubles in 17 games, more than any other competitor in the conference.
Though Yetna is not from the U.S., he models his playing style from a notable NBA player — Blake Griffin. The explosion and power that Griffin plays with is something that Yetna tries to emulate.
“I watch Blake Griffin’s game,” Yetna said. “I see how explosive he plays and I try to pick up on the things he does so I can try to improve.”
While Yetna models his game after an American, he prefers delicacies from the Far East. Japanese is his favorite cuisine with sushi being his favorite food.
Yetna has adapted to life at USF, just as any student. While his family still lives in France, Yetna found comfort in the comradery of his teammates.
“I hang out with Q [Laquincy Rideau], Justin Brown, Mark Calleja and Ron Lubin,” Yetna said. “We all like to do similar things. We play John Madden football, NBA 2K, FIFA soccer and watch Netflix. We watch a lot of college basketball games too.”
Yetna admits his personality can go from one extreme to the other in any given situation. Although calm and collected on the basketball court, Yetna is an emotional person.
“I react to the situation,” Yetna said. “I am the type of person that is never in between. I am calm sometimes and other times very emotional.”
Yetna had to keep calm and show patience and resolve when an NCAA ruling declared him ineligible for the 2017-18 season. Yetna once again needed to show his focus and perseverance and look at the time away from competition as another way to get better at his craft.
“It was very hard not playing last year,” Yetna said. “It was hard because I came here to play, but I needed to stay focused. I wanted to make the best out of a bad situation because I knew I could bring something to the team in 2019.”
Yetna is taking advantage of his opportunity and continues to work on his game. He is averaging 12.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. Yetna has been putting in the work and Gregory has seen positive results on the court but doesn’t think Yetna should be satisfied.
“He is working on his game,” Gregory said after USF defeated Tulane earlier this season. “You can see the skill development. He is shooting better from the three…We need more from him, but at the same time, you can see his confidence growing offensively.”
Yetna considers himself a math person. He knows numbers well enough to pursue a career in economics. It’s not too hard for him to count to double-digits — both on and off the court.
“He’s becoming a guy, that double-double, you would be ticked off if he didn’t get it now,” Gregory said. “I am happy where he is at right now and I know he is just scratching the surface.”