Flash Meets Substance
By Brandon Petersen
Dream Vision 17U SF Sebastian Much has flash.
Standing at 6-feet, 8-inches tall, he’ll oop off the backboard, he’ll tomahawk, he’s got an incredible two-handed back-scratcher that will burn the roof off of any gym in the nation.
However, flash can sometimes be valued a little too highly on the AAU circuit. You’ll see it from time to time, the rim-rattling act is surrounded by onlookers, while the pass-happy pick-and-rollers a court over are sparsely spectated.
But while flash garners shoe contracts, substance continues to win basketball games.
And it’s there, at the crossroads of flash and substance, where Much’s recruiting tale lies.
“After a tough injury that had me somewhat struggling over the AAU summer, the Princeton coaching staff always believed in my ability to succeed,” Much said. “They never gave up on me.
“This was something that I didn’t take lightly.”
Spurning offers from more prolific basketball programs, even some that spend March perennially vying for Final Fours, Much took the road less traveled, and gave his signature to Coach Mitch Henderson and the Tigers.
“I never pictured myself as an Ivy League player,” Much said, “But I didn’t want to eliminate anyone early during the recruiting process.”
That wisdom wasn’t always afforded in return, however.
Following a hot start to the circuit last spring, Much’s stock was on the rise. He showed out in Dallas, then Atlanta, as Dream Vision’s leading scorer, and he did it with style, catching bodies and schooling defenders with an impressive post-scoring repertoire. His three-point shooting was on-point, his passing was eye-popping. Everything was working.
Then, after a brilliant performance in Dream Vision’s signature win of the summer — a host-humbling quarterfinal defeat of Compton at the Magic’s own tournament — Much rolled an ankle, and, without any time to heal, was hampered for the rest of the summer.
Although his shooting never waned, nor his passing — or minutes — his flash, the ability to rock the rim with violence, took a hit.
But, as is often the case in life, struggle revealed character. Not only the basketball player’s character, but his suitors’ character as well.
While some programs slowed their interest post-injury, Princeton’s interest only became more intense.
“The Princeton coaching staff seemed to really respect, not only my talent, but also my character,” Much said. “They believed that with my shooting and passing ability, I will be able to play a major role on their team right away.”
Much says he knew after watching Princeton (10-6) a couple of times this winter that he had made the right decision.
“To play at and attend the top university in the country is incredibly intimidating, but yet so tempting,” Much said. “I realized through the process that not many students get this special opportunity and that, for me, warranted an unofficial visit.”
Much was astonished by the campus itself, but also taken aback by a staff at Princeton that he described as heart-warming and welcoming to his family.
Much’s family, which spans the U.S. and even across the pond to Germany, has played a huge role in his life and basketball career.
“For as long as I can remember, my Mom has always been tough on me and my brother, Vince,” Much said. “Teaching us right from wrong, to give when someone else is in need, and to always make sure we respect others.”
That type of upbringing has left Much a thoughtful young man, kind, and selfless, and it may have played a role in choosing a school that values much more than just the labors of the basketball court.
Alan Turing, the famed computer scientist recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game,” wrote his PhD thesis at Princeton.
Much plans to major in the same computer science program that the inventor of the computer itself made famous.
“I’m looking forward to being inspired and learning from highly academic students and professors, “ Much said. “They will help me grow as a person and succeed in life.”
Much is a big believer in the power of mentorship.
Durand “Speedy” Walker, a scout with the Detroit Pistons, and the founder of The Family AAU program, was the man who gave Much his first fundamental basketball training at six years old.
“His passion for the game, constant drills and reps made me want to work harder and play at the highest level possible,” Much said.
NBA sports performance guru Arnie Kander has also played a major roll in Much’s development, helping lead Much back to health after injuries through unconventional, holistic methods.
“For that I am forever grateful,” Much said.
Heading into the back-half of his final high school season at JSerra (14-6), Much, who is currently No. 49 in California in scoring (22.7 P/G), is averaging a double-double and has the Lions sitting pretty in their mission to return to the postseason under first-year head coach Zach Brogdon.
When that journey ends, another will begin, and Much, having been through the ups-and-downs of the recruiting process, will go into it with a valuable perspective that can only be gained through setback.
“I was in the best shape of my life and college coaches took notice,” Much said. “It wasn’t until I rolled my ankle that things seemed to change. I struggled with the sprain for most of the summer, but I guess you could say I learned how to play through it to the best of my ability.”
That type of knowledge may not be all that flashy — but it’s full of substance.
No one ever said those Tigers of Princeton were dummies.
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.