In one of the final practices prior to winter break, Lawrence High senior Anthony Selden arrived late because he was completing a test from his math class.
Joining in the middle of a 3-on-3 team drill, Selden lined up alongside the baseline. He didn’t have much a chance to warm up, but it didn’t matter. On his first play, he caught a pass, shifted his body to the rim and slammed a dunk over a teammate.
The 6-foot-5 Selden oozes with athleticism. Watching him play, it’s the first thing that everybody notices. Some players jump, but he floats. When he dunks, his head approaches the 10-foot rim.
As the younger brother of former Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., it’s easy for people to expect athletic highlights, but this is all new for him. When he moved to Lawrence in his sophomore year, he couldn’t dunk.
“Where he’s gone in just his athleticism from there to now has just been a real eye-opener to me,” Lawrence coach Mike Lewis said.
This version of Selden, who possesses game-changing defensive qualities, has gradually developed over the last three years. He’s helped the Lions to a 3-3 record heading into winter break, averaging 11.6 points per game.
Selden never took basketball seriously before he arrived in Lawrence, moving from Roxbury, Mass., during his brother’s junior season at Kansas. He said he was a star receiver in football, but his mom made him stop playing in his freshman year.
At the time, Selden wasn’t thrilled about moving to a new state. Initially, he was mad that he was placed on the junior varsity team. He says he basically only talked to three people in his sophomore year: Trey Quartlebaum, whom he knew before the move, Brett Chapple and Van Dave Jacob.
“I didn’t really like talking to anybody,” Selden said. “I was, like, distant.”
Over the course of a few months, Selden became more comfortable with his surroundings. He grew a few inches in the summer, which allowed him to play more athletically. He remembers his first dunk on a 10-foot rim at Rock Chalk Park, “a little baby dunk off two feet,” about three months after he arrived in Lawrence.
He learned it was a different level of basketball in Kansas than what he was used to playing. Selden vividly remembers stepping on the court for the first time against former LHS standout Justin Roberts. After the opening tip, Roberts drained a 3-pointer several feet from behind the arc.
“I played with terrible teams my whole life,” Selden said. “I saw Justin and I was like, ‘Who is this Justin kid?’ That’s all I hear about. I played against him for the first time and I was like, ‘I can see what they are talking about now.’”
It wasn’t always a smooth transition to a new team. He was suspended by the coaching staff at the beginning of his junior season, his first time on varsity, which served as a wake-up call.
“That was a humbling experience,” said Selden, who missed two games. “Not everything revolves around me only. It’s about the team. I’m more able to see that now than I was last year.”
Since then, he’s continued to make strides on and off the court. After a four-point win against Topeka on Dec. 1, Lewis described Selden as a piece of a puzzle that the team was still figuring out how to use. Sometimes he will play in the low post, other games he’s on the perimeter as a guard. He's happy to play anywhere.
He can frustrate opposing players with his ability to block shots. Even when he doesn’t swat the ball, he’s in their mind when they are shooting. The coaching staff just wants him to be more vocal.
“He definitely can be a game-changer,” Lewis said. “The athleticism puts him in that position.”
Selden isn’t as strong handling the ball as some of his teammates, but he’s nearly impossible to stop once he starts driving downhill. In a free-flowing game against Wyandotte, he scored a career-high 29 points with some highlight dunks.
After games, Selden said he receives feedback from his older brother. Wayne, who is signed with the Memphis Grizzlies but recovering from a right quad injury, continues to tell Anthony to strive for more — “That’s one thing that’s driving me,” the little brother said.
Now Selden is hopeful that basketball will continue to be in his future. He wants to play basketball in college, but is considering spending a year at a prep school, possibly even his brother’s old stomping grounds at Tilton School in New Hampshire.
He began seeing a future in basketball for himself last summer when he played for Team Rush, an AAU team based out of Kansas City. Selden left the program because he didn’t play much, but he called it a “good experience.” He remembers guarding a highly regarded player in a tournament in Las Vegas and shutting him down on defense.
“I didn’t realize how far I could take this,” Selden said. “When I seen that, I was like, 'I can actually do something with basketball.'"
“Before I even came here, I used to suck, honestly,” he added. “I’m still getting there.”
When Selden was growing up, he said he was usually referred to as “Wayne’s little brother.” Now, he’s trying to make a name for himself.
One of Selden’s proudest developments in his senior season is his outside shooting. He didn’t make any 3-pointers last year. He remembers an assistant coach approaching him after a game last year to tell him that the team doesn’t need him to shoot threes anymore.
It’s still a work in progress, but he’s made a pair of 3-pointers in the first few weeks of the season. It only helps open up driving lanes, where he can use his explosiveness.
“I’m starting to realize I can push myself to do more," Selden said. "I didn’t know I could do this good when I was younger. I’m just happy for myself. I know I’m not stopping here either.”