With his high school basketball career finished, graduation approaching and still no firm plans for college, Bryan Sekunda was starting to get concerned.
But just before the spring college signing period began, interest rose from a number of college programs and it appeared as if Sekunda finally had a path set for his future.
Life doesn’t always go as planned.
The State College graduate is home this fall, watching the game he loves as a spectator until his doctor clears him to start playing again, but the main part of that plan is still firmly in place after he signed a national letter of intent earlier this month to attend Stony Brook and join the Seawolves basketball team.
“Getting a chance to play Division I basketball was a goal and dream of his,” his father, Glenn Sekunda, said. “He put a lot of hard work and hours in the gym. It was something he really, really wanted to do.”
There was much to like about Bryan Sekunda’s game.
The 6-foot-5 guard-forward led the Little Lions with 20 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season in helping them to the District 6 Class AAAA title and a trip to the PIAA Tournament. He also led the team with 55 3-pointers, making 34 percent of his long-range tries, and netted more than 1,000 points for his career.
“I love the fact that he can shoot the ball,” said Seawolves coach Steve Pikiell, whose team is off to a 5-2 start to this season. “I love that fact that he has a good IQ and he knows how to play. He’s a very good passer. We take a lot of pride as a basketball program in developing guys. I think his upside is off the charts.”
However, while he had the height, Sekunda was a little lacking in bulk, and he would likely be pushed around at the Division I level.
He got a little bit of interest from some Patriot League programs and a few others, and there was an opportunity to walk on with Penn State, but Sekunda hoped for more.
Then, playing AAU ball last spring, with his father sending out videos and invitations to see games, Sekunda played well and caught more interest, including from Stony Brook.
The Seawolves, however, made an offer for 2015, after Sekunda attended prep school for a year.
The reviews for the plan were mixed.
“At first I was a little skeptical about it,” Sekunda said. “Then thinking towards everything — I was a pretty skinny kid in high school. I’m 6-5, but I was light. So I was able to focus on things I wouldn’t have been able to. It was going to happen either way, whether I got hurt or not. In the end it’s going to help me a lot.”
The plan was to attend Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, add some weight and muscle and hone his game a little more.
But in July he tore the ACL in his right knee, and things got a little derailed.
“I didn’t even touch anybody,” Sekunda said. “I knew something definitely happened. I’d never felt anything like that before. I never had any serious injuries. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.”
He had surgery a few weeks later, began his rehab, and then got some good news — Stony Brook was sticking with him.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Pikiel, who envisions Sekunda as a shooting guard or small forward — or even as post if he wants to go with a small, quick lineup. “There are a lot of obstacles you’re going to go through to be a Division I basketball player. This is just one small obstacle.”
Most of the rehabilitation plan has been in the hands of doctors, but Sekunda has been heeding the request to add a few pounds.
He has been lifting weights three days a week, running three days a week, doing rehab work twice each day and consuming 5,000 calories a day. He has put on about 20 pounds, and while he has not been able to do much strength work with his legs, he is nonetheless more sturdy and prepared for the next level.
“This year has actually been kind of a blessing in that regard,” Glenn Sekunda said. “He’s put on a good amount of strength, being able to work out. … He’s really been able to develop and change his body this year.”
“This year is going to help me in the long run,” Bryan Sekunda said. “I figure I’ve got to make the best of it that I can.”
There’s just been one little problem with all these workout routines and weight-lifting regimens: He has hardly touched a basketball since the summer.
The sweet jump shot has been put on ice.
“I’m not allowed to jump — yet,” said Sekunda, the exasperation clear in his voice. “I would really like to be able to shoot. That’s been my thing for a while. I was kind of a gym guy. I like to be in the gym a lot.”
The closest he gets, other than shooting with his feet firmly planted on the ground, is watching games on TV or his brother, who is a freshman in the Little Lion program.
“It’s definitely different, tough,” Sekunda said. “My little brother’s in the gym now, and he’s the closest thing I have to watch. Every time I see them in the gym I get the jitters. I just want to do something.”
Basketball runs deep in the family. Glenn played at Penn State, as well as professionally, and he was an assistant coach with Bryan’s AAU team out of Pittsburgh.
With the extensive background in the sport, it gave Bryan an extra perspective in finding a school and college team.
“It’s been him and me in the driveway or in the gym pretty much since the third grade,” Bryan Sekunda said. “He’s helped me the whole way along.”
He still doesn’t know what he will be studying in school, but he has time to figure that out. He is focused on his health, has a job for the winter and is eager to finally get back on the court and take those jump shots.
“My mindset changed from the beginning to now,” Sekunda said. “I think anybody that found out they tore their ACL would be down about it. It took me a week or a week-and-a-half, and it is what it is. I’ve got to do it.”
This wasn’t the path he imagined a few years ago, or even what was set in the spring, but it’s a road he is more than ready to follow. It takes him from quiet central Pennsylvania to Long Island, N.Y., not far from New York City.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” Sekunda said. “It’s a new part of my life and I’m excited. It’s a new chapter.”