A customized edition of NBA All Star Damian Lillard’s signature shoes sit waiting to be put on.
The words “Comeback Season” are emblazoned on either side of the sneakers, covered in candy stripes. On the inside are the outlines of the states of Indiana and Oregon.
An IU trident and the No. 1 make it clear that these customized shoes belong to none other than women’s basketball junior guard Bendu Yeaney.
They also comprise just a microscopic portion of the total number of shoes in Yeaney’s collection.
“Altogether with me and my brother we have, like, over 300 (pairs),” Yeaney said. “I try to buy a pair each month.”
Yeaney’s closet is her own personal Foot Locker, lined with Nike, Jordan and Adidas sneakers that have been stockpiled since the seventh grade.
Her favorites right now are the pair of Jordan “First Class” she just bought. But if comfort is the move, expect to see Yeaney rocking the “Cream White” Yeezys.
When she’s on the court you might catch Yeaney, who averaged 9.7 points and led the team with 51 steals a season ago, in James Harden’s “MVP” signature shoe, or more likely a pair of Lillard’s “All Skate” signature from Adidas, which Yeaney is gifted occasionally from the All-Star point guard.
“I play in them mostly all the time," Yeaney said. "His little sister sends me shoes every once in a while, so I play in those a lot."
Yeaney’s first laced-up love was a pair of Nike Blazer hightops she found in the closet of older brother Chris back in middle school.
“We wear the same size,” Yeaney said. “So like every time he would leave early for school I would go and take a pair of his shoes and then wear them to class, and he wouldn’t know. Then I would put them back before he got home."
Now the two share their sneakers openly, alternating purchases of the latest kicks.
“Me and him started buying shoes together because we were the same size,” Yeaney said. “If I would by a pair, he wouldn't buy a pair.”
After injuring her Achilles tendon last spring in the NCAA tournament, Yeaney is still on the road to recovery, meaning it will be awhile before IU’s best and most stylish defender returns to the court.
“We’re talking late December before we have her back, probably January,” said IU head coach Teri Moren. “There’s going to be several games in between before we have her back. She’s excited about the work she’s put in. We’re hopeful.”
Yeaney was a member of the starting lineup in all but one game last season, and her defensive presence and leadership will be missed on an IU squad that was picked by coaches to finish third in the Big Ten this year.
“We understand what we’re missing with Bendu; I think that focus will be with us and with the coaches,” junior guard Ali Patberg said. “Obviously we’re gonna miss her defensively. You know not having her makes us focus on missing her, so I think when she comes back, we’ll be at a better level, and she’ll only add to that.”
Yeaney has resumed practicing with the team via half court five-on-five, Moren said. If all goes well, Yeaney will be bumped to full court play shortly, and then it becomes just a matter of time before she returns completely.
For Yeaney, equipped with her custom Dames and all, comeback season is underway.
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