When Elon University head men’s basketball coach Matt Matheny was recruiting sophomore forward Tyler Seibring, Matheny felt confident that he had found a quality player for the basketball program.
“When we saw him in the recruiting process, he’s exactly what we want in the system,” Matheny said.
And now, firmly entrenched in his second season through the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), Seibring is blossoming into Elon’s best all-around player, leading the team in points, rebounds, blocks and minutes played.
For Matheny, Seibring has been a perfect fit at Elon, able to contribute in every facet of the game from the moment he stepped on campus.
“He fits so well with his ability to pass — everybody can see he can shoot, but he can pass with his right hand, he can pass with his left hand,” Matheny said. “He’s got a great basketball IQ. The blocks are kind of sneaky. He’s our leading shot blocker — which is not saying a whole lot — but he gets some that are like, ‘Wow, that’s good.’ He’s got some good length, he’s got a good level of toughness about him.”
Seibring has been on fire in Elon’s recent four-game winning streak, averaging 20.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 blocks in 34.8 minutes. His play earned him back-to-back Co-CAA Player of the Week nods Jan. 23 and Jan. 30, an acknowledgment that he appreciates but isn’t focused on.
“It always feels pretty good, but I’m much happier with the wins we pulled out,” Seibring said. “Getting individual recognition is great, but as a team, we’re getting recognition for what we can do in this league.”
He shone brightest in Elon’s best game of the season, scoring a career-high 25 points while tallying seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal without committing a turnover in Elon’s 93-73 win over Drexel University Jan. 19. He scored in all ways, shooting a perfect 7-of-7 from the foul line, 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line and impressing redshirt junior forward Brian Dawkins with some post moves inside.
“He doesn’t pull [the move] on me because I’ve seen it enough,” Dawkins said. “I enjoy watching Ty play down on the block. He’s creative down there. He was able to show it tonight. It’s amazing to watch.”
Sophomore guard Dainan Swoope added, “He’s special. It’s a lot of fun playing alongside him. He can do a lot of things — he can score inside, outside, he can defend. He does it all for us. He’s a very key player for us.”
For Matheny, Seibring isn’t doing anything special — he’s still the same player he’s always been. But Seibring’s belief in himself has flourished right in front of Matheny’s eyes.
“I think he’s growing in confidence,” Matheny said. “I think he’s successfully making plays that he saw in the past but was not always making the play. It’s not like he’s flipped a switch and he’s a different player. He’s the same player, but he’s more consistent. He’s growing in confidence and it’s fun to watch.”
That growth is happening on both ends of the floor, with Matheny seeing his vision as a key “talent” for Seibring on the defensive end.
“I think he sees the game well defensively,” Matheny said. “I think he’s very smart. That’s easier to show up offensively, but I think he’s equally as smart defensively. He’s got good arm length, and that allows him to get a fingertip on a rebound or block that might be a little sneaky.”
Seibring laughs in agreement when Matheny calls his blocks sneaky, adding, “I’ve played a lot of basketball, and when you’re not really the greatest jumper, you’ve got to find ways to make an impact. I think seeing the court and seeing plays developing are extremely important for me.”
Both Seibring and Matheny have felt that a key to his development this season was the work that he put in over the offseason with new strength and conditioning coach Ty Watson. It’s a necessity for someone who plays as many minutes as Seibring does on the Thursday-Saturday schedule of the CAA, a grind that Matheny has disliked since joining the conference.
“We know the Thursday-Saturday schedule is coming, so we worked really hard on getting our body right all preseason and in the fall,” Seibring said. “Even now, we’re still lifting and in a good enough shape to play the Thursday game and still be ready to go on Saturday. It happens to everyone — there’s a lot of guys who play a lot of minutes on both teams, so at that point you have to be mentally tough and keep fighting. Everyone’s doing it, and the tougher team is going to be able to pull it out in the end.”
It’s that toughness that Matheny has seen come out in Seibring during this season, one where he’s grown into a leader on the court for the Phoenix. As Matheny looks ahead for Seibring, Seibring’s leadership style is something he finds interesting.
“I see continued improvement physically and athletically, and I see him gaining more confidence to make the right plays even more consistently and become more of a vocal team,” Matheny said. “Not just part of the leadership team, but one of the main leaders. As much as we love leaders being vocal, I love that there’s a quiet confidence about him. I see him gaining in all those areas right now.”
And, in the season where he has gained so much on the court already, Seibring was able to play back in his home state of Illinois during Thanksgiving break. The Phoenix swept Northern Illinois University’s Thanksgiving Classic, with many of Seibring’s friends and family making the 100-mile trek from Normal up to Dekalb.
“It was a great experience,” Seibring said. “Of course, the three wins topped it all off, because that’s what we were trying to do there. But I had great support there, and saw a lot of people that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Everything about that trip was fantastic.”
Seibring stressed that the support from his midsize hometown is always making him smile and laugh, saying, “There’s a running group chat of my friends back home. Anytime there’s a picture of me, they’re constantly retweeting it or putting it in the group chat. There’s been people that have come up to my mom at the grocery store and ask, ‘How’s Elon doing?’ that she’s never seen before.
“I think it’s pretty cool that Elon has made it to Central Illinois.”
And the CAA knows that one of the best out of Normal, Illinois, had made his impact on Elon.