Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: June 23, 2019

 

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Betsy Spicer Brookbank has spent many years around the game of volleyball, but none match up to her four years on the University of Illinois campus.

She loved her home away from home, Huff Gym.

"Huff was one of the greatest places to play," Brookbank said. "The crowd was so much fun and every match felt special."

She loved her coach, Don Hardin.

"He was like another parent," Brookbank said. "Don not only cared about the program and making sure it was successful, but he cared about making sure you have the best college experience."

She loved the road trips, especially the one she and her Illini teammates took to Holland her sophomore year.

"We got in so much team-bonding time," Brookbank said. "Nothing could march how close we all were that year."

From 1997-2000, Brookbank experienced personal success, too. Twice — in 1999 and 2000 — she won first-team All-Big Ten honors. Her name is sprinkled throughout the Illini record book, ending her career fifth in hitting percentage (.348) and total blocks (456). She'll also be remembered for her triple-double against Kansas State in 1998: 13 kills, 13 digs and 11 blocks.

As a senior, Brookbank received the prestigious Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, awarded for proficiency in athletics and academics. After her playing career at Illinois, Brookbank played three years of professional volleyball and spent several more as a coach.

She met her husband, Wade, in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has followed him during his National Hockey League stops in Nashville, Vancouver, Boston and Carolina, and many other minor league destinations.

Today, he's a professional scout for the Chicago Blackhawks.

In 2019, Betsy operates Little Volleys Academy in Barrington.

The Brookbank family includes four children.

Illini Birthdays

Today: Sean Leland, baseball (23)

Monday: Nate Hobbs, football (20)

Tuesday: Thomas Saggau, track & field (20)

Wednesday: Luke Butkus, football (40)

Thursday: Brad Childress, football (63)

Friday: Mike Bellamy, football (53)

Saturday: Nichole Cho, track & field (20)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is www.SportsLLL.com.