HUNTLEY – Haley Ream has never been short on words, gifted with both a keen sense of timing and knowing precisely the right thing to say.
Her locker room speeches can be uplifting on one occasion and then intensely harsh at others, building off whatever emotion the situation calls for at the time. Playing through a three-year varsity career lends plenty of experience to the senior captain's voice.
But over the course of what's turned into a historic season, Ream has become her team's voice of reason, even if that means her temporarily stepping out of her comfort zone. If Ream ever comes close to getting in her teammates' face as she did at halftime of Huntley's Supersectional victory over Wheaton Warrenville South Monday night, it's only because she wants so much out of her final postseason tournament run.
At the time, the Red Raiders led by three. But Ream knew if Huntley was going to advance to the state semifinals for the first time in school history, the Raiders had to improve to keep the Tigers from coming back. So she huffed into the locker room and let her teammates have it, again carrying out the leadership role duties she has all season.
But once Huntley had finished off a 47-43 victory, Ream said what she felt needed to be conveyed. She apologized, feeling she had gone too far in saying what she had at halftime.
"She's too polite," junior Sam Andrews said.
That may be the only knock on Ream, who has stepped into every role Huntley has needed her to. She's a hard-nosed defender. She can work her way into the post and rebound on the defensive end of the floor and then deliver ball to the Red Raiders' scorers on the other.
She averages almost six rebounds a game. She leads Huntley with almost four assists per game and throws in 2 1/2 steals a game, making an impact Red Raiders coach Steve Raethz defines as immeasurable.
"She really understands what we need on the floor and she's just brought it all season long," Raethz said. "The players obviously look up to her and in a sense, they understand to follow her lead."
To make that happen, Ream has had to be the most vocal she's been throughout her career. On the floor, she voices her opinion as much as she can without being abrasive, admitting she doesn't like to yell. But at times, it's tough for her to hold her tongue only because she's not ready for her career to end.
But she also uses such occasions as teaching moments. As the only senior that makes significant contributions to this year's state-bound team, Ream understands how much bright the future is for the Red Raiders. So she wants those around her to take from her experience, even if it means expressing tough love when it's needed.
Sometimes, she said, it just needs to be done. And throughout the season, her teammates have fed off her example.
"Haley means a lot to our team," freshman Ali Andrews said. "She picks us all up when we're down. She's a really good leader - on the court and off. She's really pumped up and she's really confident in everyone."
She's also confident in a team that will again be a decided underdog Friday night against Rolling Meadows (29-3) in Normal. The Red Raiders will try to slow down a team that averages 71 points a game and that scored a season-high 95 earlier this season against Wheaton North.
Ream, who is known for finding inspirational YouTube clips to inspire her teammates before the game, will again deliver the message she believes her teammates need to hear, appreciating the historic nature of what will be the last weekend of her high school career.
And as she has all season long, she'll bring her teammates together and speak from her heart before leading the Red Raiders onto the floor.
"We'll just talk about what we need to do and what we need to focus on," Ream said, "and (we'll say) that we're capable of anything if we work together."