Seth Swalve continues to rise up the professional ranks.
The former Cullman High School basketball standout recently signed with the United Kingdom’s Hemel Storm, which competes in the National Basketball League (Division I), after an initial overseas stint with Gtuni, a Georgia-A League squad based in the country of Georgia.
For Swalve, who graduated in 2016, he’s had the time of his life chasing his dreams.
“It’s been incredible,” he said in a phone interview with The Times. “I’ve wanted to do this ever since I was a kid. I didn’t know what all it would entail — being away from the family, living overseas, being sort of isolated — but it’s been the best thing I’ve ever experienced. Playing basketball for my job, meeting new people, building relationships, getting to travel. I really do enjoy playing basketball, but I’m also appreciative of the people and places. It’s been really special for me."
Swalve played in 13 games for Gtuni last season, averaging 12.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest while shooting 54 percent from 3-point range.
While those sharpshooting stats are nothing new to those who followed his prep career at Cullman, Swalve said the dynamics of the overseas game are much different than what he’d grown accustomed to at the high school and collegiate (UAH) level.
“In high school, there was an expectation to work on your game and have a buy-in with the team,” he said. “At that age, so much of the vision is brought on by the head coach himself, assistants, fans, other external things. At UAH, there’s the same kind of demand, but I think the expectations go up for your individual performance and work ethic.
“My first year overseas … it’s completely individual-based and winning. That’s all that really matters, other than not getting in trouble or being a headache to your team. There’s a lot of pressure on you individually, and there’s no one to save you. It’s sink or swim. That was, for me, a big transition. In the United States, there are more athletes. But what they might lack for athletes over here, they make up for in IQ, team play and strategy. I was blessed to have a good foundation of that playing at UAH.”
Swalve equated his first run with Gtuni as a “start-out, entry-level position,” but added that was “the best I could do being an undersized guard out of a small school.”
The 25-year-old, however, impressed the semi-professional club enough to earn another contractual year before ultimately deciding to sign with Hemel.
"My stats at UAH didn’t jump off the page, so my first year was trying to get something professional on my résumé and go from there. Just try to put up good enough numbers so my agent could go with that and market me. This league I’m in now is a little bit better in every aspect — resources, dynamics, players. It’s a step up.
“This team lost in the championship last year but brought back a lot of key places. I think we can win a lot of games. It’s something I’m focused on — having a postseason run and earning the right to play in big games and win those big games. And my whole goal as a player is just to grow offensively and defensively, raise my IQ, polish my skills. I just want to be a sponge, make the team better and learn a lot from them."
Despite the new lifestyle this past year, Swalve hasn’t forgotten his roots.
He said he receives numerous text messages from his parents, siblings, old coaches and teammates, friends, and people he’s met along the way — all of them offering various words of encouragement as he continues to chase a boyhood dream.
“The support has been wonderful,” he said. “The time change makes it difficult, but there’s never a shortage. It’s something I appreciate the most. At random times I might get a text … and it’s just another boost and reason to keep me motivated."