Mark Sears leads Alabama to its first-ever Final Four: 'Give all honor and glory to God'

The Final Four for men’s college basketball is set, and one of the teams to punch its ticket to Phoenix was Alabama, the No. 4 seed from the West Region in Los Angeles. Led by dynamic sharpshooting guard Mark Sears, Alabama outlasted No. 6-seed Clemson on Saturday night, 89-82, to reach the first Final Four in program history.

There, the Crimson Tide will meet overall No. 1-seed, presumptive favorite and reigning national champion UConn.

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Sears, a senior who leads the Crimson Tide in scoring (21.5 points per game) and steals (1.7), proved to be the difference against Clemson. He poured in 23 points including six clutch second-half 3-pointers and seven total and chipped in three rebounds, two assists and a steal. The ball was seemingly always in his hands in the game’s deciding moments.

Sears also leads the Tide in minutes played, and across Alabama’s two games in Los Angeles, Sears was on the court for all but two of them. Following the victory, he was named West Region MVP and he and his teammates cut down the nets.

“Hard work is always undefeated,” Sears told CBS’s Allie LaForce on the court after the game. “Give all honor and glory to God.”

Sears continued share about his faith in his postgame press conference.

“Coming out of high school, I wasn’t highly recruited,” he reflected. “My parents, they kept encouraging me to never give up and stay focused, put God first. I just put the work in, trusted God, and now I’m here.”

Growing up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as an only child, Sears was introduced to faith at a young age by his parents.

“I grew up in church,” Sears said on the “SchuZ” podcast in 2022, when he was a sophomore at Ohio University. “My mom and dad, they were really on me with that at an early age. I feel like that was one of the best things that could’ve ever happened in my life, just to know that I’m not alone and I can always talk to God whenever I want to.

“… I just feel like being able to talk to Him, just tell Him how I was feeling, just read the Word, that really helped my faith.”

A frequent topic of discussion for Sears was basketball; he had always dreamed of lacing up for his home-state Crimson Tide. However, at 6-foot-1 and without explosive athleticism, it seemed as though his dream may never become reality. Sears wasn’t offered a scholarship by the Tide and spent his first two collegiate seasons proving himself at Ohio.

One day while sitting at a traffic light, his mother, Lameka, said she heard from God about her son’s basketball career: “God said, ‘I’m taking Mark the backroad route to his destiny,'” Lameka shared with USA Today after Alabama advanced to the Final Four. “‘… I’m taking him the backroad route, on purpose.'”

Sure enough, Sears impressed Alabama’s coaching staff so much that they offered him a scholarship once he entered the transfer portal before the 2022-23 season. A successful junior season with the Tide led him to declare for the NBA draft before returning to college.

Lameka, who’s become a television favorite during Alabama’s Final Four run, said she’s shared her message with her son on numerous occasions. She reminded him once again on the court after defeating Clemson Saturday night.

Sears, who prays with his family before every game, has seen God’s goodness during his time in Tuscaloosa. The Tide was one of the best teams in the country last season and advanced to the Sweet 16. This season, in Alabama’s Sweet-16 victory against North Carolina, he broke Alabama’s single-season scoring record.

“Even when I have the good games, I just praise Him. I just thank Him,” he said in 2022. “I just give Him all the honor and the glory. Even on the bad games, I just thank Him for allowing me to be in the position that I am today. There’s never a day that I go without thanking Him.”

Sears knows God has led him to the 2024 Final Four for a purpose. He will seek to continue to praise Him, regardless of whether a national championship is in his future.

Alabama and UConn will tip off at 8:49 p.m. ET on Saturday in Phoenix. The other two teams at the Final Four, Purdue and N.C. State, will play at 6:09 p.m. ET.

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