Connor Seipel finished his college basketball career at Wittenberg as the North Coast Athletic Conference's all-time leader in field-goal percentage and scored more than 1,500 points, but his high school coach remembered having to convince Seipel that he was good enough to play at the next level.
"I talked with Connor and his parents the summer between his junior and senior years and I told them I could see Connor playing college basketball," Groveport Madison coach Ryan Grashel said. "They didn't really see it, but I said, 'Just wait and see,' that he should have options. He'd played summer baseball since he was little, but I told him we'd need him in the gym with us, and he made that sacrifice. His game really took off."
After a junior season in which he averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds coming off the bench for the Cruisers behind two college-bound forwards, Seipel shined as a senior in the 2015-16 season. He averaged 10.1 points and 10.2 rebounds to lead Groveport to its first Division I district final since 1995, then went on to a college career in which he amassed 1,507 points and 910 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field.
"I didn't think about college whatsoever until my senior year, when Grashel told me college coaches were starting to ask about me," said Seipel, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward. "(My accomplishments) mean a lot to me. It's an honor. I was fortunate to play with a lot of good guards that could get me the ball. It's a lot more than I could have expected."
Seipel came off the bench as a freshman and started as a sophomore, averaging 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds to help lead the Tigers to the conference championship. He became the focal point of the offense as a junior, averaging 17.7 points and 10.3 rebounds before recording 16.0 points and 10.5 rebounds this past season.
Seipel scored his 1,000th point during the final game of his junior season, a 70-61 loss to Guilford in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
"His impact on the program was huge and can't be measured just by the statistical numbers," Wittenberg coach Matt Croci said. "You could see so much upside (at Groveport), but I'd be lying if I said I thought he'd do what he was going to do. The credit for what he did the past four years goes to him. He worked hard. He was a good teammate and he made himself a heck of a basketball player."
Croci said Seipel's game expanded this past season when the natural lefthander focused on increasing his right-handed abilities.
"I was on him for four years about using his right hand," Croci said. "It was never about the ability to use it; it was about the confidence, stepping outside his comfort zone. He was so effective left-handed that unless teams were stopping it, why go away from it? (But) when he became our featured offensive player and we were playing through him, he was seeing other teams' best defensive players. There was only a handful of times he didn't get double-teamed at some point."
Seipel worked his way through Groveport's program, playing on the freshman team and then spending his sophomore season on junior varsity before coming off the bench on varsity as a junior as the Cruisers advanced to a district semifinal.
That team's top two inside players were Tony Anderson, who went on to play for Southeast Missouri State and now is playing professionally overseas, and Carmearl Thomas, who signed with West Virginia State.
Seipel became Groveport's go-to player as a senior.
"I figured out where I fit in the offense," Seipel said. "My goal was to average a double-double and I barely did that. Once I found my niche, things really started going well."
Seipel will graduate May 16 with a degree in business management, although his next step is unclear. He has been living with his girlfriend in the Dayton suburb of Kettering during the state's stay-at-home order because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and is both looking for a job in his field and exploring professional avenues overseas.
"It's kind of just reading the (job) descriptions, talking to people and feeling things out to see what's a good fit for me," Seipel said. "I'll test out what opportunities are overseas and try to get a sense of the timeline with everything that's going on."