No matter what she’s doing or how busy she is, LeAnn Teeple always finds time for one of her true passions in life – basketball.
The sport is in her blood. And it always will be.
She occasionally makes time to take part in open gym sessions, honing the skills that made her one of the top high school girls basketball players to come out of the South Sound.
“I’d rather do that than go run on a treadmill,” said Teeple, 31.
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It’s been 12 years since she last donned the Tumwater green-and-white uniform, leading the Thunderbirds to their first state tournament appearance in 1997.
Known as LeAnn Sheets in her days on the hardwood, the 6-foot-2 post set numerous school records, including career points, single-season points, single-game points, rebounds and career blocks before taking her game to the University of Washington and then overseas to Korea as a professional. Many of her records at Tumwater still stand.
These days, her family keeps her on her toes. She and her husband, Travis, have three daughters – 4-year-old Taylor, 2-year-old Tesslynn, and infant Talia, who was born July 3, weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce and measuring 20 inches long.
“I love being a mom,” Teeple said.
She also does payroll and accounting for her father-in-law’s business – Hi-Strength Bolt, an industrial supply company. Her job allows her to be a stay-at-home mom and work from her Lake Tapps home.
ONE OF AREA’S BEST
Her size and strength made her a force throughout her four-year high school career (1993-97). In her senior season, she led the T-Birds to league and district titles, along with a fifth-place finish at the state tournament. A four-time first-team all-Black Hills League player, she averaged 20.6 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals per game her final season.
The T-Birds’ trip to state in ’97 was a school first. That team was deep in talent, including forward Hiedi Hatcher, who went on to play at Portland State, and the late Katie Vernon, who played at The Evergreen State College. Tumwater was considered a favorite to win the Class 3A title – then the state’s largest classification – especially after surviving a tough district tournament against teams from the Greater St. Helens League. But Foss upset the T-Birds, 65-47, in the opening round of the state tournament. Tumwater bounced back to win its next three games, including a 55-39 decision over Eastlake for the fifth-place trophy. The Thunderbirds finished the season with a 26-2 record.
“She was a wonderful complement of a skilled athlete,” said Dale Reeves, the Tumwater girls basketball coach from 1995 to 1997. “She was so strong, and had all of the capacities of a Division I prime-time athlete.”
COLLEGE TO THE PROS
Her talent landed her at UW under the guidance of coach June Daugherty after she was recruited by other Pacific-10 Conference schools and other NCAA Division I programs.
Although she was a post in high school, she played every position except point guard at UW. She was a starter her final two seasons, averaging 8.0 points and a team-best 8.8 rebounds per game as a senior in 2000-01. That season, the Huskies won the Pac-10 regular-season title and advanced to the round of eight in the NCAA women’s tournament.
“It was awesome,” Teeple said. “It was great to end on a good note, especially the Elite Eight. If we did it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”
Just when she thought her playing days were over, she got the opportunity few get – to play professionally. A few months after her final collegiate game, Teeple earned a spot on the Cool Cats, a professional women’s basketball team based in Seoul. Her superb tryout in Seattle assured her a spot on the team, where she was one of two foreigners. The Cool Cats won the Korean league title in their four-month season.
“It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it,” Teeple said.
“You eat and breathe basketball.”
Shortly after returning from Korea, she married Travis Teeple. The two met while they were attending UW. They have been married seven years.
“If I didn’t get married and have kids, I’d be traveling the world and playing basketball,” she said.
FROM PLAYER TO COACH
Although family life and a promising job keep her busy, Teeple said she hasn’t ruled out coaching the sport she grew up playing and loving. She’s been a high school assistant coach on two occasions: during the 2001-02 season at Tumwater – where her father, Ron Sheets, was the varsity coach; and again in 2006-07 at Black Hills with Paul Dretsch.
Reeves said Teeple fits the coaching mold perfectly with her kind-heartedness and ability to see the greater good in others. He recalls her being a great mentor for a youth basketball program.
“She’s been around the game for so long,” Reeves said. “She has a great demeanor with kids and is a likeable person.”
Her basketball sneakers aren’t hung up for good.
“I definitely want to get back into it,” Teeple said. “I love that aspect of my life. I loved the bonding with all the girls. I loved to see them grow.”
Not to mention watching her children grow, too.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473