When he was in high school, St. Marys native and Elk County Catholic High School graduate Ryan Seelye attended an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) game in the Petersen Events Center with some friends and family.
(Article by Nate Steis.)
He watched as the Pitt Panthers ran out of the tunnel, and he visualized what it could be like to make this dream a reality.
Standing 6’6”, Seelye surely is built to play college basketball, but his path to get there was a unique one.
The former ECC Crusader moved into Pitt in the summer of 2015 a week before classes were slated to kick off. He had chosen biology as a major and planned on taking on medical school after the completion of his undergrad.
Seelye chose going to Pitt over playing basketball for the likes of Juniata, Thiel, and Penn State DuBois. He also received some mail from Cornell and Harvard football, but never pursued this endeavor. What he did decide was a good education, and the University of Pittsburgh did provide that.
Just a few days after moving in, Seelye decided that he was interested in making a dream of playing college basketball at Pitt a reality. “The night before school started I decided to email the entire staff and list some credentials,” said Seelye. I heard back from two of the coaches, and they invited me to play pickup with the team on Monday afternoon.”
Seelye went to this pick up session, and he was performing well. We made some three’s, grabbed some tough rebounds, and kept up with the game speed. After pick-up concluded, he was approached by former Pitt and current Texas Christian University (TCU) Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jamie Dixon.
“I noticed a guy up in the bleachers watching us play, and I couldn’t really see who it was. Eventually, Coach Dixon came down and started talking to me for a while about myself. That was a pretty unreal experience.”
Ironically, Seelye was not the only person from District 9 playing in some of these runs with the Pitt basketball team. 2013 Smethport graduate Zach Smith made the team as a walk-on, and it was during these pick up games that these two first met.
“Zach Smith was someone I looked up to,” said the St. Marys native. “He had an amazing high school career, and he is one of the hardest working people and athletes I have ever seen.”
After two more days of pick up, Seelye did not hear from anyone on the team that Thursday. However, he did hear from some of the coaches that Friday and made his way across campus with James Robinson, one of the former star guards on the 2015-2016 Pitt Panthers team and a former ESPN Top 100 Recruit.
This duo walked from their morning general education class that they had together across campus, and Seelye remembers starting to get some looks from passers by because he was one of the big men on campus in Robinson.
“He knew everyone or said hi to virtually everyone we saw. He was a great mentor to me about how to act and treat being a familiar face at Pitt.”
After meeting with the coaches, Seelye was asked to join the team as a walk-on. He graciously accepted, and he could not wait to tell some of his friends and his family.
“I remember walking back to my dorm and calling my family. My sister honestly did not believe me at first when I told her. She actually said something to the effect of yeah, and you are going to meet Coach Dixon next. Little did she know that I already had.”
It was official; Ryan Seelye from a class A basketball program in rural Pennsylvania did the unthinkable of making a Power 5 basketball program. Though it is still so remarkable, it is more believable than some may consider. Looking at the kind of program Elk County Catholic has in boys basketball, it is not a surprise that Seelye had this opportunity.
From an early age, Little Dribblers helps young men grow their love for and skills within basketball. When talking about ECC and the basketball program in particular, the former Pitt forward had a lot to say.
“There is something special to me about ECC as a school, community, and also the basketball program. People there taught me so much about character, discipline, attitude, decision making, and adversity. They prepared me well not to just play college basketball, but for the real world. I like to catch up with people out of the blue through call or text and thank them. I also go up to the school sometimes when I am home to see everyone.”
Seelye was one of the better athletes to come out of ECC in the 2010’s as he had success in football as a do it all athlete, in baseball as a pitcher and first basemen, and also in basketball as a forward for the Crusaders.
Though Seelye loves basketball, he lists Friday Night Lights as something he misses most. “Driving around on a Friday night and seeing those lights, it makes me miss my friends and so many memories. There is nothing like high school football to me.”
Seelye spent a season and a half as a member of the Pitt basketball program, and he was a part of a Panther team for the 2015-16 season who won 20 plus games and went to both the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
He remained with the team for his sophomore season for the Fall, but decided to focus on school and wanted the experience of being a student and not a student-athlete. This change helped Seelye find what was important in life, and that was his education, career, and his support system.
“After I stopped playing, I made a great effort to reconnect with so many who I just could not see or talk with as much as I wanted to when I was playing. That took a toll on me when I was playing, and some people just do not understand what it is like to be an athlete at that level. For comparison, some of my teammates would shoot and workout until 2AM and then be up at 7AM for lifting. Being a student-athlete at that level is like working two full-time jobs to me.”
Leaving the team may be one of the toughest decisions he will ever make in his life, and it is not a decision any 20 year old should be criticized for. Seelye can recall having his character questioned on social media and in articles written by members of the press, but he chose to stand strong during these tough times.
Looking back nearly four years, Seelye has nothing to be regretful of. He played Division I basketball in the ACC, graduated from Pitt with a degree in Economics, he spent a semester abroad in Auckland, New Zealand, and he gained valuable work experience in several different industries.
The Elk County native graduated from Pitt in December of 2019, and decided Colorado was a place he could see himself enjoying. Seelye has lived in both Boulder and Denver, and has worked as a financial analyst since March of this year.
He is close to obtaining his license in skydiving, and has been skydiving in multiple states and countries.
The former Pitt forward still plays some pick-up basketball, but admitted he did not pick up a ball for several months or attend many games for the remainder of his sophomore season. “It hurt giving it up,”Seelye said. Pitt basketball was so good to me and actually tried to have me take different roles with the team, but I stood firm in my decision.”
One thing Seelye did talk about when playing pick-up is he always gets everyone’s best effort when they play against him. “I understand why it is like that, but sometimes I just want to play around and enjoy the game. That is one thing that does get old.”
The love of sports will always be existent for this small town kid, but his passions are wide. In fact, on his bookshelf sits 20th century classics, agriculture novels, and books related to finance. His brain is like a sponge, and he is quick to dive into learning new topics.
At just 23 years old, Ryan Seelye’s life is just getting started. He surely has had a lot of different experiences most young people could only dream of having, but his low key and chill vibes centered around the Colorado mountains and wilderness fit his style for the foreseeable future.