STOCKTON — While playing high school basketball at Tokay High and finishing at Modesto Christian, D.J. Seeley was recruited by no shortage of mid-major colleges, including the University of the Pacific.
But Seeley, like so many other elite high school athletes, wanted more. He wanted the big stage.
"Pacific recruited me as a sophomore, but I wasn't thinking about schools at this level at that time," he said. "All high school kids are like that thinking about the big time."
As it turns out, the mid-major level probably was the best place for Seeley all along.
The Cal State Fullerton senior, who saw limited action in two seasons at the University of California before transferring, is a candidate for Big West Conference player of the year. He's second in the conference in scoring at 18.9 points per game, and scored 32 points Thursday night in the Titans' 95-88 victory at UC Davis.
Seeley and his Fullerton teammates, including ex-Modesto High standout Sammy Yeager, will be in Stockton tonight to face Pacific in a 7 p.m. tip off.
Spanos Center is a very nice college facility, but the Big West arenas in general fall far short of those found in the Pac-12. Seeley doesn't care.
"It's not about the gyms," he said. "It's being able to play and realize that I'm blessed enough to be able to do this. I could be anywhere. I could be somewhere else. But I'm not. I'm playing basketball and I'm on track to graduate and I have good things in front of me."
The focus on taking his basketball skills as far as possible has led Seeley on a journey dotted with transfers.
As a junior at Tokay, Seeley led his team to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 championship (with a victory over Yeager's Modesto High team.)
But when the Tokay coach resigned and the program's assistant coach was fired, Seeley sought a new place to finish high school.
He moved with his father Dennis Seeley, Sr., still the junior varsity coach at Modesto Christian, to Salida, then had to sit out the first 30 days of his senior season before joining the Crusaders.
Before playing a game at MC, he committed to Cal and coach Ben Braun. But Braun was let go at Cal and replaced by Mike Montgomery.
The style of play that Seeley saw as a good fit, was gone, but he still went to Berkeley.
"The change in coach was the main thing that happened, but I'll still take the whole hit for not fitting in at Cal," Seeley said.
"As far as basketball was concerned, I still can't say it was a bad decision, but looking back maybe I should have backed out and let him (Montgomery) re-recruit me. I don't think he had ever seen me play."
Seeley saw action in 51 games over two seasons with the Bears, averaging 2.2 points per game, then asked for and received his release from Cal following the 2009-10 season, quickly finding a fit at Fullerton.
"I didn't have a problem with sitting out a year because I was basically already sitting at Cal," Seeley said. "I just wanted to get better."
He averaged 17.3 points and 5.5 rebounds last season at Fullerton and earned first-team all-Big West honors. This year's performance simply continues that output.
"Changing schools allowed me to grow as a person," Seeley said. "It would have been great to go to a school where I could have stayed for four years. But at the end of the day, it's about giving everything your best shot."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150. Find his blog at thehive.modbee.com/thurman.
BIG WEST BASKETBALL
WHO: Cal State Fullerton (11-8, 4-3) at Pacific (11-8, 5-2)
TIME: 7 p.m.
TICKETS: At the box office before the game or at www.pacifictigers.com