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After suffering a concussion last year, Sam Leiby returned to the court this season and made a huge contribution for Guilford girls’ hoops as a senior captain. (Photo courtesy of Sam Leiby )
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Sam Leiby was uncertain about what was in store for her entering her final season with the Guilford girls’ basketball team. Sam, a senior captain guard, had suffered a severe concussion during her junior year, forcing her to miss the rest of that season and putting her senior campaign in question.
“I was injured for nine months. I had to see many doctors, from concussion specialists to eye doctors and neurologists,” Sam says. “You name it, I probably saw them.”
The good news is that Sam returned to the court with a clean bill of health and made an immediate impact for the Indians this season. Guilford started off by losing eight of its first 10 games, but Sam and her teammates turned things around to qualify for both the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament and the Class L State Tournament on the strength of a solid second half.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to ever be able to play again, so I’m really thankful that’s not the way the story ended,” says Sam. “I have to thank everyone who helped me through that time and allowed me to play this year.”
First-year Head Coach Bernie Brennan was happy to see Sam get back on the floor. Brennan knows that Sam’s presence played a huge role in Guilford’s home-stretch surge.
“When Sam finally got the all clearance from her doctors, she made a huge difference,” Brennan says. “Sam is an experienced guard who can handle the ball and score, which we desperately needed.”
Sam’s favorite moment of the year came when the Indians posted a 41-21 blowout over Law on Feb. 5. Just three weeks earlier, Guilford had taken a 16-point defeat against that same Law squad.
“It was a huge bounce-back win for us after losing to them on their home court earlier in the season,” Sam says. “This really showed our improvement as a team and our unwillingness to give up.”
Sam wound up scoring an average of 7.5 points per game for the Indians this winter. Coach Brennan says that Sam and fellow senior captain Elle Petra were excellent leaders for his squad.
“I can’t say enough about how great both girls were,” says Brennan. “We had a tough time scoring points this season, but those were the two that I could always count on to make a shot when we needed it the most.”
Sam understood that things would be different at Guilford with a new head coach on the bench. However, Sam says that Coach Brennan proved a great fit for the Indians and appreciates all the guidance that he gave her.
“I knew this year was going to be a big change due to the change of coaches,” Sam says. “We started off slow, but we qualified for both SCCs and the State Tournament. I credit much of that to Coach Brennan. I am really grateful for his attention to detail and the amount of time that he put into this season.”
Sam started playing basketball when she was five. Sam’s parents signed her up for a mini-hoops program, and her love for the sport took off from there.
“I have been playing basketball for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents played in high school, so they naturally put my brother and I into this program, and we both loved it,” Sam says. “My favorite aspect of basketball is the competitiveness of the sport. My family is very sports-oriented, so from a young age, I learned to appreciate that.”
In addition to competing for Guilford, Sam also plays basketball throughout the offseason. Sam has participated in AAU leagues since she was in the 6th grade.
“Outside of the school season, I played AAU for the Connecticut Cobras from 6th grade all the way to my junior year,” says Sam. “The school season would go from November to March, and AAU would go from March until July, so I was playing basketball competitively for a majority of the year. I also participated in various clinics and camps to keep in shape for the upcoming season.”
Sam also stays busy off the court by working hard in the classroom and dedicating much of her free time to extracurricular activities. Sam is the president of the Spanish Honor Society at Guilford High School, where she’s received both the Scholar-Athlete Award and the English Humanitarian Award. She’s also a peer minister at St. George Church.
“I take pride in my ability to balance athletics and academics,” Sam says. “And my academic achievements are a reflection of this.”
After high school, Sam will attend Bentley University to study business. She’s thinking about majoring in corporate finance and accounting with a possible minor in Spanish. While Sam isn’t going to play basketball at Bentley, the sport will remain a part of her life, and she’s eager to see what the future holds for her in college.
“I love the sport and always will,” says Sam. “But with the concussion and everything else, I want to take the time to focus on my studies, and I’m looking forward to attending Bentley.”
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