Tami Sears, a 1997 graduate of , was a former Libertyville star basketball player.
Sears, who now teaches special education at Stevenson High School, still holds special memories of her team's win over unbeaten Stevenson in 1994. The Patriots were getting national notice when they met rival Libertyville for the sectional crown.
"It was awesome,'' Sears said. "What a great game. I played quite a bit. The Stevenson game was our state championship. We really had good chemistry on that team."
Of course this stunning win sent the Libertyville squad to the supersectional against Glenbrook South.
History tell us Glenbrook South won a state championship that season. Libertyville fell in this game, 85-75. But that was because Glenbrook South squad had a special guard in Dana Leonard, who would join Sears to play Northwestern University basketball.
"Dana never let me live that game down,'' Sears said.
Sorting Out Her Athletic Life
Growing up tall helped Sears sort out her athletic life.
"I grew up playing soccer,'' she said. "But because I was tall, I was almost forced into it. I ended up falling in love with the game."
Her father, Dave, was coaching basketball at Grayslake so young Sears went along for fun.
"He would turn on the gym lights and we would shoot around,'' she said.
In high school, she first played soccer, volleyball and basketball. Sears then concentrated on volleyball and basketball for three years.
A Potent Player for the Wildcats
Standing over six feet, Sears became a potent player in the middle for Libertyville's basketball team.
"She rebounded the ball really well,'' said former Stevenson girls basketball coach Frank "The Wizard" Mattucci. "She was really good around the basket. She handled the ball well, too."
Mattucci once came up with a plan to slow down Sears. He asked his smallest guard, Christy Miller, to harass the tall Sears.
"We had a 5-foot-1 guard covering a 6-2 kid,'' Mattucci said. "I don't think Sears knew what to do."
Looking back on her high school days, Sears admits she didn't get the thrills of her freshman campaign.
"We went back to the sectional,'' she said. "I played a two-guard which was kind of crazy."
By her junior year, the Wildcats began to find some tough teams around. Mattucci's Stevenson squad won back to back state titles.
"It was always Stevenson or Lake Forest beating us,'' she said.
Learning Through Playing Ball
Still, basketball was very good to Sears.
"I learned a lot about myself in high school basketball,'' she said. "It was in my junior year that I starting thinking about recruiting."
Sears first thought of Penn State and Illinois.
"Northwestern wasn't on my list,'' she said. "They came in at the last second. I fell in love with it. It was close to my home but not too close."
All the pounding from her sports career had taken a toll. She missed the entire 1997-98 campaign.
"I thought I had a stress fracture,'' she said. "And I was fighting through it. The team doctor came in and said I had two broken bones in my foot."
Starting Every Northwestern Game
Her injuries healed. She started every Northwestern game in 1998-99 and led the Wildcats in rebounding. By her senior year, she led the team in both scoring and rebounding.
It was then she got her first taste of traveling. As a member of the Big Ten All-Star squad she played basketball in Belgium, Austria and Germany.
"That was an incredible experience,'' she said.