Melrose’s Sam Dewey signs with University of Illinois
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—Melrose basketball fans may recall Sam Dewey when she played in Melrose gymnasiums during her youth and teen years. Now the senior power forward at Brooks Academy has earned what very few hoop stars ever accomplish. The 6’1 power forward has signed her letter of intent with the University of Illinois and will play for the Fighting Illini in the NCAA Div. 1 Big 10 Conference next fall. The signing is a culmination of years of training in the gyms of Melrose and North Andover that will now lead her to the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois.
Dewey, daughter of Michael and Anne Marie of Melrose, now enters her senior season at Brooks Academy, where she helped the team win the NEPSAC Class B championship during her first season. Between her work and Melrose High (2017-2019) and Brooks Academy (2019-present), Dewey easily broke 1,000 career points last season. Already just one game into the 2021 winter season, Dewey opened with 35 points and 15 rebounds off of Pingree Academy on Dec. 4 for a Brooks 91-30 win. It’s clear the Fighting Illini made the right choice.
Like anyone, Dewey considers playing for the Big 10 a dream come true. “It feels amazing to be able to play in the Big 10. It’s a really competitive conference, which I look forward to,” says Dewey. “I’ve always wanted to be challenged while playing basketball and it’s been my dream since I was little to play high-level basketball.”
Walking into the State Farm Center, Dewey knew right away that this was the place she wanted to call home. “I knew it when I watched practice. I loved how the kids worked together and how the coaches interacted with them. The campus was a great fit on and off the court.”
Known for her finesse and power, Dewey sports a unique athletic background that gives her a technical edge against opponents. What happens when you blend a gymnast with a basketball player? The answer is Sam Dewey, who used skills gained from early years of gymnastics training to give her the kind of agility and grace not often seen in basketball forwards and centers.
Her coach at Brooks Academy, Ushearnda Reynolds, saw this in Dewey’s early years. “I remember her mother telling me that Sam asked her when she was a little girl ‘What can I do to be an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics?’ because that’s how high Sam aims. Seeing her talent in basketball, I knew that if I worked with her, she’d be getting Div. 1 basketball offers.”
Somewhere Simone Biles is breathing a sigh of relief. Dewey began playing club basketball in the 6th grade with Reynolds at United Conquerors, which evolved into Lady Rivals, a popular Merrimack Valley-based club. Dewey considers club training instrumental in helping her get ready for college scouting. “Club forces you to play at a higher level and faster pace and that will be the case in college too,” she says.
The scouting process started as a freshman and Dewey was receiving phone calls early on. “It was a little overwhelming but creating relationships with coaches from all different schools helped me grow as a person on the court,” she says. According to her coach, Dewey drew appearances from coaches from Notre Dame, Perdue, Ohio and Northeastern, who all showed up to watch her on the national circuit.
Prior to her time at Brooks, Dewey competed for two seasons with the Melrose High girls basketball team and its volleyball team before transferring. But the Melrose product still has loyalty to her MHS friends and on occasion still pays a visit in the stands. On the MHS basketball team, she helped carry a very experienced hoop team to a league title and solid playoff run in 2017 and 2018. She recalls those special times. “My favorite memory was the friends I made and team bonding. We were really close.”
Dewey continued to generate national looks on the circuit. That resulted in 14 Div. 1 offers. Coach Reynolds explained what sets Dewey apart. “Sam’s nimble, quick on her feet. During COVID-19 quarantine she worked out, lifted weights, rode bikes with her brother and got so much stronger I almost didn’t recognize her after. She has it all as a player, and put the time in to become the best version of herself. I wish her the best at Illinois where I know she’ll become stay the humble, funny and the great talent that she is.”
Last year there was no season at Brooks because of COVID-19, so this year Dewey wants to leave Brooks on top. “We want to win another Class B championship,” she says. “And I would like to help the newer teammates become part of the basketball family at Brooks.”
Having done what so few have in the sport in Melrose, Dewey offers advice to budding shooters who want to reach such heights. “Have fun. Basketball is a fun sport. The game can get a little intense but it’s all about playing hard, having fun and leaving it on the court.”
In getting there, Dewey acknowledges the sacrifices and support she’s received from some of her closest fans. “I want to thank my parents and siblings, Emily and Owen, because without their constant support none of this would be possible. Also to Coach U who saw something in me many years ago and supported me through the whole journey. And to Ron Sen who taught me how to be a student of the game.”
You can check Sam Dewey out in her final season at Brooks in North Andover by viewing their game schedule at www.brooksschool.org.