Don Montamble, Oceanside High School coach, likes to talk about the “two seasons” his basketball team has had since beginning play in November.
The first season lasted five games, all losses. But in its new season, Oceanside is 6-1, winning the Lt. James Mitchell Tournament and placing third in the Mt. Carmel Invitational.
The difference, according to Montamble, is the addition of Junior Seau, who along with Sai Niu missed the first five games of basketball season helping Oceanside’s football team win the San Diego Section 2-A title.
“You can’t just say it’s Junior coming back into the lineup with his scoring,” Montamble said. “He brings three or four other key things to the lineup. He brings leadership, he brings that competitive intensity as a player, and he also fills an important place in the lineup so I can move people to their proper positions.”
In his first week back, Seau led Oceanside to four straight victories in the Mitchell tournament, scoring 20 points or more in three of those games.
Last week, Seau, The Times’ Player of the Week, scored 24 points in the Pirates’ 57-56 overtime victory over Poway in the Mt. Carmel Invitational. After being held to 11 points in a loss to Madison, Seau scored 22 points to lead Oceanside to a 56-38 victory over University of San Diego High School and third place in the tournament.
However, Seau is less than impressed with his performances so far.
“To go from football, a contact sport, to a non-contact sport like basketball is very difficult,” Seau said. “I’m not fully adjusted to the sport of basketball. I don’t have my legs yet and mentally I’m not there.
“Right now, there’s a lot more pressure in basketball than there was in football,” Seau said. “In football, no one expected that much from us. In basketball, everyone expects us to win CIF.”
Last season, the Pirates lost in the section finals to cross-town rival El Camino.
Seau, a senior, is being heavily recruited by colleges, so coveted by scouts that his parents had to get an unlisted phone number. Seau said he will concentrate on football in college.
But Seau is in no hurry to reach college.
“I want to come out a 4.0 (grade-point average) and just stay Junior Seau,” he said. “I want to have some time for me to have fun in my senior year. I don’t want all this recruiting to overshadow my senior year, because it will be over before I know it. I want to enjoy it while I can.”