Yvonne Ejim: Driven to Be Her Best in Life

Gonzaga women's basketball player Yvonne Ejim lays the ball up.

March 21, 2024
Dale Goodwin (M.A.T. ’86)

To say Yvonne Ejim is driven is like comparing a Lotus to a Hyundai.

The Gonzaga senior’s Head Coach Lisa Fortier and her team have reaped the benefits of their best player also being their hardest worker. High octane and achievement oriented.

But for the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Ejim’s drive is not limited to basketball. And her impact is not felt only on the hardwood.

“Yvonne is part of our Student Athlete Advisory Council leadership team and many of our other student-athletes lean on her for guidance as they prepare to move on in life,” says Deputy Athletic Director Shannon Strahl. “She is goal-oriented in everything she does. It is not about ‘her.’ It is how her contributions can impact the whole. And she is so easy to be around.”

During her second-to-last home game in the McCarthey Athletic Center, Ejim was the last player to be introduced as the starting lineup was read aloud. It was preceded by a montage of great plays by the senior and just before her name was called a graphic was overlaid the video board that read, “I’m Coming Back.”

The near-packed Kennel crowd, already on its feet, gave the fan favorite the loudest and most prolonged ovation this writer has ever witnessed there, and I have seen most of the games played on that court, men and women, since the doors opened in 2004.

“It was so very heartwarming to hear all those people cheering me on after seeing the announcement on the big screen,” Ejim says. “It made me proud of the player I have become, not only to the Gonzaga community, but to myself. I may have teared up a little because I knew that ovation meant I was at least doing a pretty good job.

“I just hope I continue that into next year,” Ejim adds. “I built something very special here with my team and the community, and I wanted to continue being here in this environment growing and learning more from the people around me.”

“I have built a home here and that’s what brought me back,” she says.

“I just love how she continues to improve and evolve,” Fortier told Spokesman-Review reporter Greg Lee. “She is not a stagnant person nor player. She is always pushing to be better.”

Ejim is most grateful for the opportunities Gonzaga has given her, and the growth, on and off the court, she has experienced.

She is allowed a fifth year on the team as part of the last class to have a season shortchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in human physiology and plans to complete a minor in psychology next year.

“My degree in human physiology has exposed me to new things and has benefited me in finding my path into medicine,” a career she hopes to pursue when her basketball days are done. But there is no telling when that might be.

Ejim spent a week this season away from her Zags while competing with the Canadian Senior National team, which earned a berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics. She will continue working to earn a spot on the Olympic team when her academic year ends. And perhaps a future spot on a WNBA roster, too.

“It has been all the people I have met and have worked with here that has made my time at Gonzaga so amazing. The community I work with in SAAC is just so welcoming and has provided me with wonderful connections to other student-athletes,” Ejim says.

“I’ve also been lucky to find so many amazing people through Gonzaga’s student affinity groups on campus, like Black Student Union, Filipino American Student Union, Asian American Union, South Asian Student Union and Hawaii/Pacific Islanders Club.”

Ejim has also spent time contributing to service projects coordinated through the Athletic Department, including food drives and packaging, yard work for neighborhood seniors, providing an audience for high school students to read their poems and display their art, and working on arts and crafts with kids at Gonzaga Family Haven.

“Community service has been appealing to me. I am especially appreciative of the work during my first year and the connections I was able to make with community members,” she says.

Contributing service to the community as a student-athlete has been important in rounding out Ejim’s college experience and bringing joy to her and her teammates. “I have enjoyed opportunities that allow our team to bond and make memories,” she says.

But for now, she is focused on helping her team defend its home court during the first two rounds of the 2024 NCAA Basketball Tournament, hosted by Gonzaga in the McCarthey Athletic Center. And she is excited to know she will be back for more in the fall.

“It is remarkable that we had four seniors last year who wanted to continue to play this season for their graduate years,” Strahl says. “And we are so happy Vonny has decided to return for her graduate year next season.

“It is a tribute to the kind of program we have built over time. When you watch them play you can see they love who they play with and who they play for. The joy is visible.

“They are incredible women and role models for girls across the country. They take that responsibility very seriously. These are grateful women,” Strahl says.

And very driven.


"Superhuman" Numbers

Senior Yvonne Ejim, the WCC’s 2024 Player and Defender of the Year and an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection, led the Gonzaga Bulldogs in scoring (19.8), rebounding (8.5) and field goal percentage (61%). She was instrumental in the team’s 30-3 regular season record, a No. 4 seed and the chance to host the first two rounds in the NCAA Tournament. She has scored in double figures in every game this season and has posted double-figure scoring and rebounding 13 times. The Zags are 108-19 during Ejim’s career, including four NCAA tournament appearances.

“She’s a regular person until she steps out on the court and she’s superhuman,” Fortier told Lee.

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