This summer, Seth Wylie joined the Loughborough Riders, stepping into the NBL D1.
Three months later, he competed against the British Basketball League-leading London Lions and scored his first points in professional basketball.
“Coach Rob [Paternostro] looked down the bench and pointed in my direction, and I didn’t want to wait for him to change his mind!” said Wylie, reflecting on the build-up to his first minutes in Riders red.
“I wasn’t even sure if he was pointing at me. I just took my tracksuit off and ran down to the scorers’ table. It was all a blur.
“All I was thinking coming into the game was: ‘I have to play good defence!’ I was looking around and saw Luke Nelson, who played for GB, and I was hoping Conner [Washington] would pick him up! But he told me to guard him, and I wasn’t going to argue!”
Practice makes perfect
Wylie was called up to the Riders’ game-day roster for the first time as the team prepared for the clash against the Lions. In a sliding doors moment, it took him catching fire in his first Riders practice to get the nod.
“I took part in practice a week before with the first team to make up numbers, and I had a great day. We were running as the scout team ahead of a game against Manchester, and I hit a bunch of threes from the corner.
“Everything that released from my fingers was going in! I remember Kimbal [Mackenzie] saying: ‘he’s on fire. We’ve got to stop him!’. That boosted my confidence even more, and my shots kept going in. The next week, a day before the London game, I was called up to the team.”
Life at Loughborough
The University’s association with the Riders is an attractive concept for anybody joining Loughborough basketball.
Players such as Washington and Jamell Anderson have paved the way for British basketball player development pathways, leading to long and successful professional careers.
“Loughborough has been a blessing to me. The facilities blew me away as soon as I got here. The facilities and education at the University are better than what I would get in a lot of places in America, which is great to see.
“I was happy just playing for Loughborough when I arrived. In the back of my mind, I thought it would be nice to play for Leicester if I had the opportunity, but in my head that was years down the line. But here I am!”
First pro points
Here he is. Wylie checked into the game against London with 1:48 to go, and found the ball in his hands open in the corner.
“By the time the ball was in my hands, I was in the zone. I think it had to be that way for the shot to go in. I wasn’t thinking, which was the main thing.
“Before the game, the guys were really supportive. Kimbal said to me, ‘if you get it, shoot it,’ so I shot it!”
The opportunity to practice with the first team and be in a professional environment isn’t lost on Wylie, who is trying to learn every possible lesson from the experience.
At only 20 years old, he remembers watching the players in the stands in his home city of London as he was growing up.
“I used to watch Conner play against the Lions at the Copper Box, and now I’m playing with him! Now, it’s a blessing to be able to learn from them. If I could play like anybody on this team in the future, it would be Conner Washington.
“My goal is to soak up the experience and knowledge. Everything happens so quickly at that level, so it’s about slowing the game down in my head, putting it into terms I can understand and learning from them.”
In addition to the players, Wylie has benefitted from coaching at the highest level from Loughborough Head Coach Will Maynard and Riders Head Coach Paternostro.
“I’ve gained so much confidence from my coaches. Having them believe in me and put me in games that even I wouldn’t have put me in is the first step for me.
“Hearing their reasoning behind everything they do has opened up a whole new level of understanding. The whole experience has been surreal!”
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