St. Edward grad Yohn gets a chance to live the dream
Some athletes talk about living their dreams and some get the opportunity to do it.
Consider Katie Yohn one of the latter.
On Monday morning, Yohn realized one of her dreams when she signed a contract to play professional women's basketball in Germany. Shortly after Christmas the 2009 St. Edward graduate and west Elgin resident will leave for Europe, where she will play the second half of the season and the playoffs for the Rhein Main Baskets of the Damen-Basketball-Bundesliga League, considered one of the top pro leagues in the International Basketball Federation. Yohn will be based in Langen, just outside of Frankfurt.
"It was kind of surreal," said Yohn of signing a pro contract. "I signed it in the kitchen with my mom (Janice). It's something I've been looking at and working very hard for and it's a dream come true to have the opportunity to play overseas.
Yohn, who was recently inducted into the St. Edward Hall of Fame, is the all-time leading scorer in Green Wave history, having scored 1,812 career points to surpass Beth (Hasenmiller) Sauser, who also played professionally in Europe after graduating from DePaul. Yohn went on to score more than 1,300 points in her career at Bradley University, where she also became the program's all-time 3-point leader.
She had the opportunity to play professionally last year but chose school instead.
"It came up too late and I had to make a decision," said Yohn, the honorary captain of the Daily Herald's Fox Valley All-Area team her senior year after sharing the award with Cary-Grove's Danielle Smith her junior season.
"I made the decision to go back to school and finish my degree."
Good decision, for anyone, but basketball is in Yohn's blood. So with her college eligibility exhausted and a degree in Medical Laboratory Science in hand, she joined the St. Louis Surge semipro team this past summer, helping that club to a 14-1 record and the league championship. Several Surge players and players Yohn played against in the summer also play in Europe.
She also employed the services of getaplay.com, an agency that helps players find teams in Europe.
"They are out of Germany and they worked to find me teams," said the 5-foot-11 Yohn. "This team said I'd be a good fit, I talked to the coach (Mewed Klaus-Gunther) and everything fell into place."
While not having any contact yet with her future teammates, Yohn does have some education on what basketball is like in Europe. Her Bradley teammate, Hannah Muegge, played on the German U20 team, and Yohn knows many other players who have played or are playing in Europe.
"I know the style of play," said Yohn, whose international travel to this point has consisted solely of playing in a tournament in Cancun when she was at Bradley. "I had a long talk with the coach and (Muegge) played with some of the girls I'll be playing with. The level of play will be like I played with in St. Louis. I'm sure the intensity level will be like college. I think I'll be able to jump right into it."
She won't be the only American on her team either. It includes Breannah Ranger (UW-Green Bay), Jazmine Redmon (Gonzaga) and Simone DeLoach (Indiana). The team is currently 3-9 on the season in the 12-team DBBL.
One thing Yohn will have to leave behind for now is coaching. She has been assisting Michelle Dawson's staff at St. Edward this season on the freshman and varsity levels.
"I'll miss the girls," Yohn said. "They knew I was pursuing this and I've been keeping them informed. I feel like you have to show them what you can aspire to be. It's been fun to teach them and I'll miss them. But this is a great opportunity for me."
While she will be getting paid to play in Germany, this is as much about a job as it is about her passion to continue to play the game at a high level. She will live with a German family in Langen, which will help keep her expenses down.
"I honestly don't care what I make," she said. "My agent said if I play well I might have a chance to play in Australia this summer and that would be incredible."
Incredible -- in any language -- has always been and remains synonymous with Katie Yohn.