Prairie View senior Yahuza Rasas has been the heart and soul of the Panthers this season, providing timely scoring and defense along with leadership.
Prairie View senior Yahuza Rasas has been the heart and soul of the Panthers this season, providing timely scoring and defense along with leadership. Credit: Kenneth Lee/PV Sports Information Department

At one point with the outcome still in question during Saturday’s regular-season finale between Prairie View and Texas Southern, Yahuza Rasas gave Joirdon Karl Nicholas that we’ve-been-here-before look.

They had been.

The only difference was, in the past the two were Texas State University teammates in this fierce rivalry battle. But that wasn’t the case this time. This time on The Hill, Rasas was playing for Prairie View A&M University and his job was to make sure the Tigers weren’t the winners.

Rasas made the unusual shift from TSU to neighboring HBCU PVAMU this season.

“I know everybody from the coaching staff to the players to the administration,” said Rasas, whose team held on to win 78-74 thanks to big defensive plays by him. “It’s all love on both sides.”

As awkward as it might have been on the basketball court, Rasas’ decision last summer to make the unthinkable shift from Texas Southern to Prairie View was all business.

Rasas, whose aspiration is to go to veterinarian school, enrolled at Prairie View to take a needed Animal Science course, graduating from TSU with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science.

It wasn’t long before the 6-foot-7 forward thought, since he still had one more year of playing eligibility left, why not lace them up for the Panthers and head coach Byron Smith? The two sides were at least familiar with each other from a basketball point of view.

“It made sense, if I was going to stay in the area to go to school, I was going to be at PV anyway,” said Rasas, who grew up in St. Louis. “So, I might as well come play ball.”

It’s certainly not normally how this rivalry goes. But surprisingly it has worked out well for the player and Prairie View.

Rasas, who is one of 11 graduate transfers on the Panthers’ roster this season, has been one of Smith’s most consistent players throughout the campaign. And as the season shifts to the postseason, Rasas is their most proven player in March.

Rasas was a key member of the Tigers the last two seasons when they won back-to-back SWAC Tournament championships, then won their NCAA Tournament First Four games in each of those years. The hope is that he will pass on some of that knowledge as the sixth-seeded Panthers take on No.3 Jackson State in the first round of the SWAC Tournament in Birmingham on Thursday.

“Just the knowledge of being at the SWAC Tournament, I’ve been at March Madness two years now, back-to-back,” Rasas said. “I know what it takes to get there. I know the trials and tribulations you will face getting there and when you are there.”

While Will Douglas has led Prairie View in scoring this season, Rasas has been the Panthers’ model of consistency and the ultimate glue guy who does all of the little things, and is always in the right place when the team needs him most.

That was the case during last weekend’s win over TSU when it was a steal underneath the basket and then a blocked shot that paved the way to victory.

Rasas, who has been a consistent double-double guy for the Panthers this season, is averaging 11 points and 6.8 rebounds while ranking fourth in the SWAC with 30 blocked shots on the season.

“Without Yahuza Rasas we are not in sixth place with a chance to go into the conference tournament with a chance to pull off some upsets,” said Smith. “He is definitely the heart and soul of our team.”

Rasas credits his close relationship with Smith for his tremendous growth this season. Under Smith, Rasas’ role has expanded and he has started in 24 of the 25 games he has been active. To that end, Rasas leads the team in minutes, playing 29.6 minutes per night.

“Me and Coach Smith’s connection is amazing,” Rasas said. “I have a coach who I completely trust in, who completely loves me, who is completely there for me. He is 100% in. I can easily bring 100 (percent) every day, just knowing he is going to push me, and he is going to bring it, too.”

That being said, Rasas has no regrets about his time at TSU. He says he still enjoys close relationships with former Tigers teammates and coaching staff.

“It’s easy to say I would have loved to have made this choice in the beginning, but going to TSU, I feel like that is all part of my story,” he said. “Winning there, that’s something … Who is to say if I had decided to come to PV that I would have won? I don’t know.”

SWAC Tournament First-Round Schedule


March 8: No. 1 Alcorn State vs. No.8 Texas Southern, 8:30 p.m.

March 9: No. 3 Jackson State vs. No.6 Prairie View, 2 p.m.


March 9: No. 4 Southern vs. No.5 Prairie View, 5:30 p.m.