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Greater Tulsa Reporter

TU’s Shea Seals at Home at Alma Mater

Managing Editor

SCHOOL PRIDE: Shea Seals stands in the Reynolds Center on the University of Tulsa campus. He played basketball from 1993-97 for TU, and has served as director of player development and team manager since 2012.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Frank Haith may have brought his own coaching staff when he joined the University of Tulsa as head coach of its basketball program last year, but Haith holds an additional asset on his staff – a familiar former player much beloved by the Tulsa faithful.

Shea Seals, a stand-out shooting guard who played for TU from 1993-97, sits on the TU coaching staff as director of player development and team manager. Seals entered his position in 2012, hired by then-Head Coach Danny Manning.

After Seals began coaching high school basketball in 2005, returning to his college alma mater quickly became his endgame.

Seals’ loyalty to TU is a greater reflection of his appreciation for his hometown, which affected his earlier life decisions, including where he would play college hoops.

His original commitment was to play at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “I wanted to play for a big program,” he says, “but after visiting (Seton Hall), the east coast was nice, but I wanted my support system and the community support that I had here.”

Thus, the McLain High School graduate came to TU in 1993. For his first two years, he played under Head Coach Tubby Smith and his last two years for Steve Robinson.

During his college years, he led Tulsa to a four-year record of 93-34 and four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Tulsa saw its first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1994 and repeated that achievement in 1995.

Seals completed his career as Tulsa’s all-time leading scorer with 2,288 points for an 18.5 average and ended his career ranked among the top five in school history for rebounding, assists and steals. At the end of his TU career, the school retired his jersey (21).

As Seals progressed toward graduation, his NBA hopes began to burn a bit brighter, he says.

“As a high school player, you dream of playing in the NBA, but it doesn’t start to become a realistic dream until college when you are playing on a national stage with some of the best college players in the country.”

In 1997, Seals signed with the Los Angeles Lakers after playing for the team in a summer league. For the 1997-98 season, he sat on the same team with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Nick Van Exel, to name a few.

“Jerry West (Lakers general manager) told me when they signed me that my main job was to play against Kobe (Bryant) in practice to help improve both our games,” he says. “It was a nice opportunity for me to get better.”

Unfortunately, Seals’ bright future soon became clouded when he got injured while playing in a summer league before he was able to re-sign for a second season. Re-signing had been delayed due to the 1998-99 NBA lockout.

Seals, then, returned to Tulsa to undergo rehabilitation. “It was hard coming home after being injured,” he admits.

However, Seals kept on. He focused on getting healthy and finishing his college degree, which he neglected once he thought his place in the NBA was sure.

Then, upon the suggestion of his agent, he spent three years playing basketball in France before returning to the states in 2002, playing for a year in the NBA Development League, with hopes of returning to the NBA.

When that didn’t happen – “You have to be really lucky, in the right place at the right time to get called up”– he returned to France and spent the next two years playing in the Philippines, China and Spain.

“I’ve always loved the game of basketball, so to play it for a living is what I wanted and to be able to see the world was a bonus,” he says.

By 2005, Seals was experiencing recurring injuries. “It showed me that my body was starting to break down,” he says. “It became tough to play.”

So, he returned to Tulsa once again, just as he knew that he would.

Looking to gain coaching experience, Seals served as assistant coach for the 2005-06 season at McLain High School under Luther Pegues who was Seals’ coach for his senior year of high school. When Pegues retired in 2006, Seals took over the program.

In 2008, he took over as head coach at Booker T. Washington, where his team won back-to-back state championships in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012, when Danny Manning was named TU’s head coach, Seals, who was already acquainted with Manning, approached him about a position on his staff.

With the entrance of Frank Haith in 2014, Seals has spent the season adjusting to Haith’s coaching style and staff.

“Frank Haith and his staff have a wealth of knowledge,” he says. “I’m just trying to be a sponge and absorb everything they bring to the table.”

As a self-described “student of the game,” for Seals, remaining close to the game is key.

“I’ve always loved basketball,” he says. “I just want to be around the game.”

Updated 03-03-2015

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