He is 6 feet 10, and he is on a mission to dismantle every opposing offense.
With each block, forward Yor Anei foiled the West Virginia men’s basketball team’s plans during Oklahoma State’s 85-77 victory Saturday afternoon in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Anei’s eight blocks set a Cowboy freshman record.
Byron Houston, the previous leader, blocked six shots against Iowa State and tied his mark against Oklahoma during the 1988-89 season. Anei broke Houston’s record with a swift swat 30 years later.
Mike Boynton, OSU’s coach, said players such as Anei boost fans’ energy.
“Now, people come to expect that from him, and he comes to know that there’s a value in his ability to change the game on the defensive end,” Boynton said.
Anei, from Overland Park, Kansas, radiates joy off the court. A grin spread across his face as junior guard Lindy Waters III complimented him in the postgame press conference.
When it’s game time, Anei trades the constant smiles for aggressive defensive plays.
For his seventh block, Anei denied Jermaine Haley’s shot when OSU fought to preserve a 79-74 lead with 2:16 left. Anei followed with an offensive play that electrified the crowd.
Isaac Likekele, a freshman guard, dished the basketball to Anei, who attempted a dunk. The ball rolled around the rim before it fell through the hoop, giving the Cowboys an 81-74 lead.
Anei had 16 points and shot 7-for-9 from the field.
Bob Huggins, WVU’s coach, said Anei’s length and timing make him an effective shot-blocker.
“I thought he made a heck of a difference,” Huggins said.
Anei added his eighth swat when he rejected freshman forward Derek Culver under the hoop with 1:34 left.
“I try to block everything that's down there, so it just felt like normal, natural instincts,” Anei said.
Anei’s 78 blocks this season are third in OSU history. Andre Williams holds the record with 85 in 2002-03, and Joe Atkinson is second with 80 in 1983-84.
Despite Anei’s forceful defense, he didn’t foul out. He had three fouls and said he is learning to position himself to limit them.
“I talk about it all the time, guys kind of stepping into new roles where they’re counted on,” Boynton said. “Sometimes it’s hard, but he really answered the challenge.”
As Anei gradually improves, teammates such as Waters recognize his young talent. Waters said he has never played with someone who blocked more than five shots in a game.
“He's got a lot of potential,” Waters said. “He's not even scratching the surface of what he can do. I'm excited to play with him another year.”