Except for breakfast, Yale’s Justin Sears a towering presence


Don’t bother inviting Justin Sears to breakfast. Well, you can invite him to breakfast. He would make good company with his engaging disposition. But don’t expect him to spend much time perusing the menu. And he certainly will not order a waffle. In, fact he will not order anything.

SATURDAY ON ASN: Dartmouth at Yale, 8 p.m. ET (click logo for local listings)

When Sears was a child he lost a battle with a waffle that he could not keep down. Ever since that episode breakfast has been like many of the opposing players who have attempted to defend him: toast.

“I loved breakfast as a child and since we are from New Jersey my parents went to diners and places like that,” said the native of Plainfield, about 30 miles west of Manhattan. “One day when I was probably in kindergarten or first grade I got sick eating a waffle, so I was like I am never eating breakfast again. I just stopped. I have not had breakfast since.”

Instead, Yale’s senior forward and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year does not consume his first meal of the day until noon or 12:30. That seems rather remarkable for a college athlete who could use an early spike in the calorie count heading into a day of conditioning and practice.

Alas, 6-8 Sears has stood by his guns all these years in skipping what is often considered the day’s most important meal.

“My first meal is usually pasta and hamburgers, those are the big things in the (school) dining halls,” said the owner of 14 career Ivy League Player of the Week selections, the most in league history. “I think when I play pro next year I will have to take better care of my body, probably have a shake or something in the morning. But I have gotten by these past few years.”

Sears would like to play professionally somewhere next season, but first things first. Yale is battling for an Ancient Eight title and he and four teammates will assume the spotlight on Senior Night when the Bulldogs host Dartmouth Saturday on ASN.

Sears enters this weekend’s games fourth in Ivy scoring (17.0) and seventh in rebounds (7.1). He is also averaging 1.6 blocked shots to pace Yale, which leads the Ivy and is trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962.

Yale’s third all-time leading scorer did not take basketball seriously until his freshman year of high school. Tennis was his primary sport and he and his younger brother, Jordan, a sophomore guard at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, were a doubles team one year in high school.

Known as the Sears Towers, the brothers were an imposing duo on the other side of the net. But Justin gravitated toward driving toward the net instead.

“We would slam the ball down on other team,” he said. “I knew if I kept playing tennis I might have been able to go to a Division II school, but basketball began to pretty much consume my time during the spring and everything. I stuck with basketball because I knew I could attend a university like (Yale).”

Sears could have attended any number of universities, but the combination of academics, athletics and the level of comfort he felt around coach James Jones led him to New Haven, Conn.

“I’m going to miss him next year because he does what he does and he does it so seamlessly that you tend to expect more out of him,” said Jones. “He is such a tremendous player. When he is playing at the top of his game he is hard to stop.”

Courtesy Steve Musco

Sears is at the top of his game when it comes to assisting others. While at Yale the political science major has read to elementary school students and volunteered at soup kitchens among other contributions within the community.

“That’s a testament to my parents,” said the finalist for the 2015-16 Senior CLASS Award, which focuses on student-athletes who exhibit leadership in the community. “As I was growing up they always told me to be an eclectic person, not just an athlete. They have nurtured me to be a good young man and if somebody needs help, or if I can do something to impact the community, I do it. They instilled that into me and my brother, to be positive role models and carry ourselves the right way.”

Sears has been doing it the right way during his time at Yale and he has enjoyed every bit of it.

“These past three-and-a-half years have flown by and I am just having fun,” he said. “Maybe one day I will look back and say, ‘Wow I really had a good career.’ But right now I am just having fun and focused on winning an Ivy title. That would be the perfect cap to my career at Yale.”

Above and middle: Justin Spears courtesy Steve Musco
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.