Points, rebounds and assists are only a part of what Cortez Seales is contributing to the North Dakota basketball team this season.
One of only two seniors on a young team, Seales is working to bring leadership to the Fighting Hawks.
“It’s something that I really haven’t had to do since my senior year at North Scott. I’m approaching it the same way and trying to lead by example,’’ Seales said.
“I remember how I learned my first seasons here from the older guys on the team, too, how they set a tone with the way they worked and with what they said. It’s my turn to do the same.’’
Seales speaks from experience.
He reached the 1,000-point scoring milestone for his career during a game at Oral Roberts earlier this month, providing the 6-foot-4 guard with an opportunity to reflect a bit on his collegiate career.
“It’s been a long process, adjusting to the college game at first and then working to grow as a player from one season to the next,’’ Seales said. “I feel like I’ve been able to do that, to contribute a little more each year. It goes by quick. My senior year, it’s almost half over. I want to finish it the best I can.’’
From a statistical standpoint, Seales is getting that done.
His scoring average of 12.5 points per game is second on the team. He leads North Dakota with an average of 2.9 assists per game, shares the team lead with 16 steals, is tied for second on the team with 10 blocked shots and is fourth on the team in rebounding at 4.2 per game.
“There’s always things I can do better and I’m putting in the work every day to make that happen, but I feel like my game has improved,’’ Seales said. “I know I’m more confident in what I’m doing. I feel good with where things are at, but I’m looking for more. I’m always looking for more.’’
That hasn’t changed since Seales earned first-team all-state honors while leading North Scott to its first-ever Iowa Class 4A state boys basketball championship in 2015.
“I’ve never been completely satisfied with everything, going back to high school,’’ Seales said. “There is always something to work on, something to get better at. If you aren’t working to get better in this game, you won’t.’’
Seales said he appreciates that notion now as much as ever.
He spent more time in the gym preparing for his senior season than ever, realizing he would be counted on for more as one of the most veteran players on a relatively young team.
“Expectations are there for me now,’’ Seales said. “I’m in my fourth year here and the game has slowed down, just like people always said it would. I’m seeing things differently now and that part of it, it’s been good.’’
Adjusting his expectations is only a part of the adjustments Seales has found himself making this season.
North Dakota, coached by Rock Island native Brian Jones for the past 13 seasons, is adjusting to a new conference as well.
The Fighting Hawks have shifted from the Big Sky Conference to The Summit League this season, improving to 8-10 on the year and 2-3 in the conference with a home win over Western Illinois over the weekend.
Seales said the biggest change has been adjusting to a different style of play.
“We’ve seen some great individual players in The Summit League. It seems like every team has some great players and it’s been challenging for us,’’ Seales said. “We’re adjusting and getting used to it and we’re competing.’’
At the end of the day, that is what Seales set out to accomplish.
He welcomes the chance to compete.
“It’s a completely different game for me now as a senior. I approach things with a different mentality and try to put my experience to work for me,’’ Seales said. “I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here and using that as I compete is making a difference.’’
There have been challenges along the way, testing him physically and mentally.
On schedule to earn his undergraduate degree in communications after finishing an internship this summer, Seales said he has tried to use every challenge to his benefit.
“What I’ve learned here on and off the court has helped prepare me for life and whatever comes after my basketball career is over,’’ he said.
“It’s that type of experience that I wanted to have when I came to North Dakota. The decision I made to come here was one of the best I’ve ever made for so many reasons and now, I want to finish it out by winning some games with my teammates and reaching our potential.’’