Pennridge's Yoder & Pennsbury's Kocak Named Univest Featured Athletes

Thanks to our continued partnership with Univest Financial, will once again recognize a male and female featured athlete each week. The recognition is given to seniors of high character who are students in good standing that have made significant contributions to their teams or who have overcome adversity. Selections are based on nominations received from coaches, athletic directors and administrators.

Univest’s Featured Female Athlete (Week of March 7, 2023)
March of 2020 was a time that will always be remembered as the beginning of the unprecedented COVID pandemic shutdown. Everyone hunkered down in their homes, their world put on hold. Some – student-athletes in particular - chose to use the time to work on their craft. Katie Yoder – then a 15-year-old freshman - was in that number. The Pennridge senior points to that time period as the most pivotal period in her growth as a basketball player. Instead of settling in front of the computer or television, Yoder worked on her game. Her three older brothers – all basketball players themselves – can vouch for that. Luke Yoder, two years Katie’s senior, laughs when he recalls waking up to the thump, thump, thump of his sister dribbling the basketball. “She’d be in the garage early morning, she’d work out super early, and we’d actually wake up to her dribbling the basketball in the garage. It was funny – ‘Oh come on, Kate, you couldn’t wait a little longer?’” Luke said. “All of us had individual workouts with her to help her get better and do whatever we could to help her because we wanted to see her succeed, but we heard that, and we’re like, ‘Oh man, already?’ She’s a hard worker, and she brings the most out of everything.”

For Yoder, basketball has never been work. Instead, it’s been an undeniable passion. “She loves basketball,” Pennridge coach Jason Rapp said. “You don’t have a lot of kids that just go in the gym and shoot and always want to be there. They don’t need a trainer, they just go in and play. Katie loves playing and she just really enjoys being around the game. When your best players are the people that work the hardest, especially as a first-year coach in a program, it helps with everything – ‘Listen, if you guys want to be this good, this is what it takes.’ Katie doesn’t say a lot, and when she does, people listen because it’s rare. She’s lets her game talk, she lets her attitude and the way she approaches the game talk.”

Dean Reiman had the opportunity to coach Yoder for three years on the AAU circuit as a member of the Lehigh Valley Fever. “She’s an unbelievable kid,” Reiman said. “She’s just a kid you love to coach. She works really, really hard, but she has that special combination of she doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she really likes to work and never misses a practice or workout. She really tried to get every ounce out of her ability that she could.”  Yoder has reaped the benefits of her hard work and will continue her career at the Division 2 level at Goldey-Beacom College. Although she boasts outstanding skills, ask Reiman to talk about the Pennridge senior, and his comments suggest she might be an even better person than player. “She’s one of those kids that sometimes impacts you as much as you hope to impact them,” the veteran coach said. “She’s just a free spirit. Her personality is so bubbly, and she’s so much fun to be around. The kids in our program love being around her. She’s just a genuinely down-to-earth kid. If you know her family, it’s not surprising that’s who she is.”

Yoder was a fixture in Pennridge’s varsity lineup since she was a freshman, and in her team’s third last game of the regular season against Central Bucks South, she surpassed the 1,000-point milestone, following in the footsteps of her brother Sean, who reached that milestone at Pennridge and led the Rams to the state title game. He went on to have a standout career playing D1 basketball at the U.S. Naval Academy. “As an offensive player, Katie is as good as anybody,” Rapp said. “Her footwork is unbelievable. Her release is college level. She knows how to use screens. She’s a complete high school player, for sure.”

Although Yoder’s numbers are impressive, they are just part of the story. “She’s a winner, she’s a competitor, and she’s relentless,” Reiman said. “There are some games where maybe her shot’s not falling, but she still finds a way to impact the game. I think the number one thing is she never takes a play off. She just plays hard all the time. She practices hard, she plays the game hard. She just plays so hard all the time. So even when she’s frustrated that she’s not making a shot, she’s picking it up on the defensive end or she’s communicating and she’s leading. She’s just a winner.”

This spring, the senior captain – a two-time first team All-SOL Colonial selection - will be involved in Unified Track, and she is also part of Young Life in her community. 

To read Yoder’s complete story, please click on the following link:


Univest’s Featured Male Athlete (Week of March 7, 2023)
What do Leonardo da Vinci, Barack Obama and Jimi Hendrix have in common? The same trait as Mozart, Sandy Koufax and Spike Lee. All are famous southpaws. While Pennsbury lefty guard Tyler Kocak may not be a household name, he has carved out quite a legacy at Pennsbury during a just-completed basketball career. The fact that Kocak played left-handed with unabashed joy, driving to the basket with sheer determination, only added to his legend. “He is a unique talent,” said first-year coach West Emme. “When you watch a lefty do things in a game, it just looks sweeter. He’s really strong and really tough, and I think his greatest attribute is how aggressive he is. He really triggered our offense, and it unlocked a lot of the talent in the other players. And that’s the best sign of a really good player, in that they make the other guys better.”

Kocak said that in AAU ball, no one really knows who he is and he can go off by shocking opponents by being a lefty. In the Suburban One League, particularly in the National Conference, it is totally different story. They had him well-scouted, knew which way he was going, and it rarely mattered. Despite being 6-1, he took it inside with such ferocity that he was hard to stop. “Everybody in the league knew he was our best player,” Emme said. “Everybody in the league knew he was going left, and he still got there… He still found a way to lead us to championship, which is unique.”

Surreal. That’s how both Kocak and Emme described the success the Falcons had in 2022-23. Emme was hired late in the process – in June – to a team where Kocak was the only known entity. Fast forward to the end of the season, and Kocak and his teammates were cutting down the nets to celebrate a division title and battling Abington tooth and nail before succumbing in overtime in the first round of the District 1 6A playoffs. Only one team can finish the season with a win, and that team wasn’t going to be Pennsbury. But in the larger picture, it was a win anyway. “Looking at him after we lost to Abington in the district playoffs, I knew how much it meant to play here and be a part of Pennsbury and have success and wear that Falcon brand across your chest,” said Emme of Kocak. “He embodied what you really want in a kid. He is just a good, humble kid who puts his head down. You knew when you were going into battle that you could count on him to be there in the trenches. He is just a pleasure to have around. He just enjoys the experience of being part of the (school) community. Pennsbury is a unique community. When you immerse yourself in it, it can become really special.”

Admittedly, Kocak did not know what to expect from the new coach when the process began last June. “When I first heard the news that my old coach was stepping away, it was tough,” said Kocak. “I was the only junior on the team, and I felt like I was losing everything. Then, we went a couple of months without even having a coach, although the freshman coach from last year stepped up and did some workouts. Then, we finally got a guy. Ever since that happened, he flipped the whole program around. He came in, and I felt a lift from the community. They came back. He just kept pushing us to be the best we could be and bringing back the whole Pennsbury culture. He played at Pennsbury, and you can tell it means a lot to him. It was really a blessing that he came here. He believed in us, and I couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff.”

Kocak led the Falcons in scoring at 15.1 points per game. He also grabbed 7.8 rebounds per game (including nearly 3 offensive rebounds per contest). His ability to drive and dish led to an average of 2.2 assists per game (against just one turnover). Often drawing tough defensive assignments, Kocak checked in at 1.8 steals per game and the team was a plus-231 (scoring 231 more points than yielded) when he was on the court. “You win the league in your first year was a step in the right direction,” said Emme. “In order to a team to be successful, you have to have buy-in from your best players. He trusted me, and I put trust back in him.”

Kocak will definitely play in college. It’s just a question of where. An excellent student (4.2 GPA), Kocak is a member of the National Honor Society, Business Honor Society and French Honor Society.

To read Kocak’s complete story, please click on the following link: