Sam Dewey '22 came to Brooks as a fourth-former following two years at her hometown Melrose, Massachusetts, high school. She was in search of opportunities to play basketball at the college level. "We had a good team at Melrose," Dewey says, "but I was thinking more about wanting to play at a high level in college, and I thought going to a prep school would give me a better chance."
Dewey's talent gave her a choice of independent schools to choose from, and, she readily admits, the idea of leaving home to go to school at 15 years old was "scary." She mustered up the courage to apply, though, and visited Brooks during a spring revisit day. "Revisit day blew me away," Dewey says. "This was somewhere I totally wanted to be." Dewey fell in love with the school. She also took comfort in knowing that Ushearnda Reynolds, her longtime club coach, would be at the program's helm, and that Taina Mair '22, Dewey's longtime club teammate, would also suit up for Brooks.
"Coach U. told me that I could come to Brooks and make an impact," Dewey recalls. "She told me I could help raise the profile of the girls sports program in general." Since Dewey arrived on campus, the 1st basketball team has won back-to-back New England championships, and the stands in the Brooks gym have filled up with students, fans and other spectators for every game.
"A lot of people show up to our games, which is really nice," Dewey says. "It's a better space to play in when you have support from people, especially other students." "Sam is, first and foremost, just an amazing, genuine, wellrounded, incredible human being," says Reynolds, the Brooks coach. "She has this amazing ability to be an incredible athlete and an incredible competitor. But, at the same time, she can look at the player who is just starting out, show them the ropes and also demand that they do what they can do to the best of their ability."
Dewey says that a lot of the basketball team's success is due to the fact that the team spends so much time together. "I love it," she says. "I feel like it's a little friend group. I've met a whole group of third-formers that I never would have if they didn't play basketball. And, we play in tournaments over breaks and get to stay in hotels together, which is great for team bonding. The basketball culture here is really nice. Even aside from the winning, just being with the team is pretty nice."
The COVID-19 pandemic caused some hiccups in players' ability to pick up playing time and experience as they age. Dewey notes that this year's fourth-formers had never played in a high school basketball game before this season. But, Dewey notes, the pandemic and its attendant restrictions also allowed the team to become even closer than they might have.
"When we were in the bubble, we couldn't hang out indoors," Dewey says, referring to the 2020–2021 school policies that prevented boarding students from leaving campus and congregating indoors in most campus spaces. "One thing that I found I really liked was just walking around campus with my teammates. We found the fire trail, which I had never walked on before. It's really nice! I went snowshoeing a bunch with [faculty emeritus John] Haile, T, Kendall and Maeve [Mair, Kendall Eddy '23 and Maeve Gaffney '23]. It was so fun! I also attempted to play squash a couple of times. I'm terrible at it. Not very good at all. It's really hard. We just went to everything we could. It was good."
Dewey discovered new hobbies and outdoor pursuits while at Brooks. She also spread her wings to lend her athletic talents to two additional programs: She's a foundational player for the 1st volleyball team and also tried her hand at rowing crew this spring.
"I just think volleyball is awesome," Dewey says. "It's such a fun sport. It's my second sport, but I do take it seriously." Dewey is a team co-captain, and she's worked hard to try to rally the volleyball team together in the same way the basketball team has grown close. "The volleyball team, in my opinion, isn't volleyball players who also play other sports," she says. "It's athletes from other sports who play volleyball. Like me, I'm a basketball player who also plays volleyball. So my co-captain, Ellie McCuine, and I have worked hard to get people to invest in volleyball and work together as a team."
The Big Stage
Dewey's next stage will be slightly larger than the court in the Brooks School Athletic Center. After receiving 14 NCAA Division I offers, Dewey chose to continue her career at The University of Illinois. At first, Dewey says, she was skeptical of attending a school so far from home. When she visited, though, "I stepped into the arena and I fell in love with every single part of it," she says. "The basketball part aside, a big thing for me when I was going through recruitment was thinking about if, God forbid, I couldn't play basketball, would I still go to that school, be on that campus, be with those people? And, I would," she continues. "I love the community, because it's a little town. I love the school and the student body. And, because it's a Big Ten school, the student fan section at games is a really big thing, and I like that. Not to mention, the basketball's amazing also."
Dewey anticipates feeling comfortable at Illinois, and she acknowledges that "there's going to be a learning curve at first." She points out that the student population at Brooks is miniscule compared to Illinois, which has more than 40,000 students. "There are a lot of kids there," she says, "but I think it's going to be good. I think it's going to be as big or as small as I make it with the people that I'm with, with my basketball community."