X Factors: Santa Clara’s Yannick Atanga


When most people think of Santa Clara Men’s Basketball, the high scoring duo of Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark at the guard position come to mind. Though these players may be considered the best talents on the roster, a player much less heralded than them is just as important. Much of the Bronco’s success this season depends on senior leader and X Factor Yannick Atanga.

Though he may not be considered the “big” man on campus, he surely is one of the “biggest” men on SCU’s campus. Atanga’s size is key for Santa Clara to win games this year for multiple reasons, but mainly because the school has not seen a dominant big man since the great John Bryant who starred for the Broncos over five years ago. On a roster full of guards and small forwards, the team is in need of a big man who can create a presence down low on the blocks.

Feb. 20, 2013; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski (24) puts up a shot against Santa Clara Broncos forward Yannick Atanga (44) during the second half at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs beat the Broncos by a final score of 85-42. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Averaging 3 points per game last year alongside fellow forward John McArthur, the Broncos struggled on the boards combining to average only 8.3 rebounds per game between the two of them. With McArthur gone to graduation last year, it is almost singlehandedly up to Atanga to produce down low because of the lack of experienced big men on the roster. Fellow senior leader Robert Garrett and redshirt freshman Emmanuel Ndumanya both have the talent to strengthen the Broncos’ presence in the post, but injuries have plagued both of them for much of their careers and continue to this year. True freshman Matt Hubbard can also help out, but it is an unrealistic task to put that much pressure on a first year player.

With this being the current situation, it is largely up to Atanga to take his team to the next level. With help being uncertain in the post, Atanga must find a way to improve on the team’s 32 rebounds per game last year which ranked them 300th in the nation. Rebounding totals that low are simply unacceptable for a team trying to make strides as a contender in a mid-major conference.

These reasons are why Yannick Atanga is Santa Clara’s X Factor player this year. It is not only expected that Atanga improves on his numbers this year, but it is in large part up to him to improve the play of many of his teammates from last year. If Atanga has it in him to become a physical, emotional, and mental leader for the Broncos this year, then the team will be successful. Being able to lean on guards Brownridge and Clark for much of the scoring production, it will be huge if the Broncos can lean on Atanga for rebounding and defensive production. With only a month left until the season begins, it will be interesting to see how Atanga and his teammates respond to this challenge facing a tough Cal State Fullerton opponent on their opening night.