Tommy Sekunda’s basketball education started on the sidelines and spanned two continents.
At a young age, Sekunda watched his father, Glenn, play professionally overseas and remembers shooting with his brother, Bryan, on the court after games. He attended Bryan’s high school games at State College and dreamed about one day leading the Little Lions. He sat on the bench for his brother’s AAU games, taking stats while his father coached.
“Any way I could, I would always try to be in the gym with them and learn as much as I could,” Tommy Sekunda said.
Tommy Sekunda is putting all that knowledge to use in his senior season at State College, helping the Little Lions to a 20-4 record and a berth in the PIAA Class 6A tournament.
Sekunda and State College face District 7 fourth-place finisher Woodland Hills (16-9) in the first round of the state playoffs at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Bald Eagle Area High School. The senior’s scoring ability has been invaluable to the Little Lions’ success as he ranks second on the team with 16.3 points per game.
But State College coach Joe Walker said Sekunda has also been a vocal leader.
“He’s watched thousands of basketball games,” Walker said. “So he has a lot of experience to bring that he can share.”
Sekunda started to learn how to play in Europe, where his father enjoyed a 12-year pro career for teams in Italy, Spain and Greece after his playing days at Penn State. Tommy Sekunda was born in Treviso, Italy, and spent parts of about eight years living in Italy and Spain.
During his childhood, he attended school in State College for a month or two and then went to international school overseas before returning to Pennsylvania for the end of school and the summer. In international school in Italy, Sekunda spoke half the day in English and the other half in Italian.
Unfortunately, he said, he can’t speak Italian anymore.
“I lost it,” Tommy Sekunda said. “I wish I still had it.”
In the first few years living in Italy, even trips to the supermarket proved difficult due to the language barrier. But they grew accustomed to the culture, and Glenn said it gave his children an appreciation for life outside the United States.
The atmosphere at the games was different in Europe, too, as Tommy recalls fans setting off fireworks inside the arena at games and Glenn remembers thousands of fans chanting songs in unison. The crowds in Greece were particularly rowdy.
“They would literally throw things at you when things were going bad,” Glenn Sekunda said. “They’d throw coins, they’d throw hangers. One time I was on the free-throw line shooting a foul shot and a watch hit me in my calf.”
While Glenn played professionally, Tommy developed a love for basketball.
His start came when he was a toddler shooting in a miniature hoop in an apartment in Italy. He played on the club team for his age group in Europe — despite not knowing what the instructor was saying.
As he got older, he dedicated himself to the game.
He gained insight from his father, who taught him how to read the floor, working on specific areas five-six days a week in the offseason. He learned from Bryan, talking with his brother — who currently plays at Stony Brook — on the phone about how to get better. He still works out his own, waking up at 6 a.m. to shoot at times.
“He’s put so much work into it, and it’s nice to see that it’s paid off,” Glenn Sekunda said.
Tommy boasts a versatile game that makes him a tough matchup for opponents — he can drive and finish inside to go with his consistent jump shot. The senior, who leads the team with 41 3-pointers, showed that ability in one of the team’s biggest games this season, scoring a game-high 28 points to lead the Little Lions to a win over Mechanicsburg in the Mid Penn championship game.
Walker has watched him use his basketball knowledge, like adjusting coming off screens to get open, to score in double figures most nights.
“He keeps a mental bank and he’s trying to learn every day when he comes in,” Walker said.
The lessons started with his father and brother, and they’ve both been watching Tommy this season, with his father serving as a volunteer assistant for State College and his brother catching some games via live stream.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without him,” Sekunda said of his father. “Him and my brother. All my family’s support, honestly.”