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Sebastian Griffin | Leadership in high performing youth basketball teams

PICTURED: Sebastian has accomplished a rare feat making SA Metro team in U16s as a bottom and top aged player and likewise in U18s. He captained the U16 team as a topager and likewise in U18s. As a bottomager he was Vice Captain in both age groups too.

If you are a young athlete and want to provide value to your teams that really contribute to success then your leadership needs to be developed. Sebastian Griffin is a great example of an oustanding leader, consistently building successful teams where ever he plays, at any level.

Seeing Sebastian, the value he brings to his teams and how he goes about it, and benchmarking this with other individuals, without Seb's traits, in very high level teams I’ve been involved with that underachieved I’ve come to realise how important toughness and leadership is in teams and how much value that brings.

You won’t see Sebastian jumping out the gym, you won’t see him hitting fade away 3s from the deep corner. He is not the most athletic guy in the world but the complete package he brings makes him a very high level prospect.

The lengthy point guard is tough, loves scoring over defenders, with contact, but also able to get deep in the paint and make a bullet kick out pass for a 3 pt shot. Sebastian is a guy that coaches want at point guard, he drives excellence from his team and has an innate understanding of play calls needed to capitalise on defensive gaps and weaknesses. Skillset wise he plays both sides of the ball, leading the country in steals at the U18 National Championships in 2018, rebounds the ball well, shoots well. We also know well at Sturt and South Australia circles that he is someone that consistently elevates his game on the big stages be it big club national tournaments or National Championships.

VIDEO: Sebastian's performance at the 2019 U18 National Championships was outstanding to any observer, statistically but it is also his intangibles that bring a complete package.

Sebastian drives excellence in his teams, is consistently a leader of teams he is involved with and his teams consistently tend to overachieve be it at club level, where he has played in the best boy’s club team in the history of South Australian Basketball and also helping his SA Metro state team's recent National Championships success. We wanted to interview Sebastian on leadership so that other budding leaders can learn and develop his skillset.

Reading this article is also a great chance for college coaches to learn about Sebastian. Sebastian being a definite prospect for Division 1 college coaches who want to build winning cultures and programs. Sebastian is playing AAU in LA (West Coast Elite) and Vegas (BigFoot Hoops) in this coming July period as we reported in this article previously; 👉 The 2019 Sturt Sabre's historic United States exposure tour; About the athletes, their successful track record and style of play (also Australian style of play).

Sebastian's leadership capabilities was again obvious when he recently captained the South Australian U18 Metro team to a historic Silver medal at the 2019 National Championships; Head Coach of the team Jarrod Clarke provides some great insights;

"I believe I speak for all of the staff from the 2019 SA Metro U18 Men when I say we would consider Seb Griffin, the captain of our team this year, to be a one-in-a-generation leader. He has the unique ability to garner the respect and admiration of all of the relevant stakeholders – team staff (coaches, managers), team-mates , extended squad members and the parents of our players. For someone of his age to have such a grasp of leadership is rare.

He leads both by example and vocally – a “no maintenance” player whose sole goal in our group was to put our team in the best position to win a gold medal. It not only included our week away at Nationals, but the entire 6-month preparation period – from trials, to squad trainings, practise games through to our week away and subsequent return home from Nationals.

His impact on our team goes well beyond on-court numbers (15.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.6 apg) or watching our video package of games. It was an all embracing attitude both on- and off-court with one goal in mind – to maximise our chance to win a gold medal.

Some points about him:

  • the unanimous captain selection (selected by 10 team members and 5 coaches).

  • Embraced the “WE before ME” philosophy e.g. in some games in our pool, which players can use to increase their averages, was happy to play a lot less to give others increased opportunities.

  • Understands that it is about more than just the “two hours” on-court per day. Includes embracing a “be your best” attitude towards:

  • “fueling up” (correct food, hydration, sleep, rest, stretching, body recovery)

  • Paying attention during film sessions – asking questions, emphasising points to teammates

  • Training– mentally and physically (understanding the scout, our points of emphasis) attentive, detail orientation

  • Together with the rest of our leadership team, prepared our “Values & Behaviours” template for the way we wanted to represent our state, and presented it (with the leadership group) to the team.

  • Identified with the coaching staff the wish to meet to discuss individual roles, and for the players to buy-in by defining each players roles as a group, identified by their strengths as peers/teammates rather than “be told” by the coaching staff

  • Organised extra early morning shooting sessions for players who could attend to do extra work

  • Big game player: led the team from the front in both the semi final (20 pts, 10 rebs) and gold medal game (19 pts, 10 rebs)

  • Physical and mental toughness: one eye closed up in our semi-final due to swelling from an accidental elbow – no complaints, no excuses, just got on with the job. Didn’t lose focus.

  • Enjoys teammates successes as much as, if not more, than his own.

I believe Seb is one of those guys who could contribute to a program in any number of ways: as a main role player, as someone playing off-ball, a reserve/depth/role-player or extended squad member – his goal each and every time would be to train as hard as he can to make both himself and his teammates better.

He is a role-model that I cannot recommend highly enough – I feel privileged that I was able to work with him as part of our program this year."

- Jarrod Clarke,Head Coach,SA Metro U/18 Men2019

PICTURED: In April of 2019 Sebastian helped lead the South Australia Metro team to a Silver medal at the U18 National Championships. In the final 5 games of tournament including the finals campaign Sebastian took his game up to a very high level, averaging •20 ppg @ 45%, 10 RPG, 4.4 APG in those games.

PICTURED: Another National Club Tournament (Melbourne Classics) gold for Sebastian. Sebastian has played in junior teams at Sturt that has been the most successful in the state's history. Winning U14 National Championships, U16 Melbourne Classics and U18 Melbourne Classics has probably never happened before and Sebastian being a key leader in this team every step of the way..

Q: Tell us about your past 12 months in the sport?

In the past 12 months I have achieved success as part of a state team, club team and individually. As previously stated we got a silver medal at the National Championships and my club team also recently won the National Junior Classic Championships. As an individual I was selected in the squad for the U17 Oceania Australian Emus team and was privileged enough to head to the Australian Institute of sport and train with some of the best players in Australia. Although it has been filled with success, the past 12 months has been mostly about improving my game every day.

PICTURED: Sebastian has become a regular in Australian Junior squads. He is getting closer and closer to wearing the green and gold in international competition in an age group packed with elite guards such as Tamuri Wigness, Mojavee King and Josh Giddey. Sebastian has shown he can compete against these guards considered some of the best in the world at National Championships and other tournaments.

Q: What leadership roles have you had over that period?

The only official leadership roles I have had over the past 12 months was vice-captaining the South Australian side as a bottom ager and then captaining the South Australian side to a silver medal.

Q: What do you think the strengths/deficiencies are in your game at the moment?

I find it difficult to talk about my strengths because I am extremely critical of my game. But the aspects I like of my game are my leadership, High basketball IQ, my ability to create for myself and others and I am often required to play out full games and I feel like I can compete at a high level for 40 minutes. Recently I have started training with a personal training with a personal trainer to improve my athleticism and explosiveness.

PICTURED: Sebastian in the weights room with fellow Sturt and South Australia Metro team mate Hayden Meakes (Hayden also hoping to secure a division 1 college scholarship next year)

Q: You are known for big game performances (we call it Finals time!) how do you mentally prepare for those games?

To mentally prepare for big games I usually spend time with my family and teammates and I try to approach it just like any other game. As part of being a leader it is important before these games to spend time with teammates to make sure everyone is focused and confident. Usually in warmups the adrenaline starts kicking in and I start to get nervous but that’s what is fun about big games.

Q: You love physicality it seems, scoring with body contact? Likewise in defense? Where does this come from?

I was introduced to the game of basketball by sister and my cousins who are all three years older than me. At such a young age, three years makes a big difference between strength and height. We used to play basketball a lot and we always played competitively. Nothing would come easy in those games and that’s where I learnt to love the physicality of basketball.

Q: How would you describe your competitive mindset and fire? What drives this?

I have always been known for being a competitive person on and off the court, but there is something about the competitiveness of basketball that is different to most sports. Alongside this, my abilities as a basketball player has often been doubted and questioned, so every tournament or big game I play it feels like I need to prove something.

Q: What is the best 3 things you’d advice other captains wanting to build a winning culture?

The three best pieces of advice would be to build a relationship with every player in the team, lead by example and make your teammates accountable. Building a relationship with every player and gaining everyone’s respect in the team is extremely important especially prior to championships because there will be times in a game where it is extremely important that every player is on the same page. Leading by example comes without saying, the only way you are going to gain your teammates respect is by making sure you’re always doing the right thing. Lastly, keeping your teammates accountable, every player on a team will have a role and the only way to win is to have everyone being accountable for their role and contributions to the team win.

Q: What will the next 12 months hold? What kind of college opportunities are you seeking?

The next 12 months will hold basketball, basketball and more basketball. I am aiming to keep improving my game so that I am a prospect for a NCAA division 1 college and very soon I will be heading to America with the Sturt Sabres to play in some AAU tournaments and hopefully get noticed by division 1 colleges. In the next 12 months I’m also completing year 12 at which I am studying hard to get good grades.

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