Sebastian Forsling was a smiley Swedish kid who grew too tall to play forward in soccer. No he still has that big smile but plays basketball center in New Mexico.
Forsling had a typical childhood in the small town of Floda. He had a passion for dinosaurs, building with Legos and watching Star Wars. He outgrew his dinosaur phase but to this day he still owns the original Star Wars VHS.
He never sat still for very long, so he used up energy playing different sports. Around the age of 11, Forsling started playing basketball, mostly because his soccer team was trying to use him as a goalkeeper, and he wasn’t a fan of that.
His mother, Jessica, will tell you that her seven-foot son still doesn’t possess the ability to sit still, but now he channels that energy into an ambitious goal.
“For Sebastian, going to the U.S. to play basketball has always been a dream and a goal,” she said. “I remember when we visited Madison Square Garden in 2015. He said to us, ‘one day it is going to be me playing out on this court, and you are going to sit here in the gold lounge and see me play. I am going to make you proud.’ ”
He is not playing there yet, but he is working on it. Basketball wasn’t always his end goal, but now it’s a very important part of his life.
At age 14, Forsling was trying to figure out where to go to high school. In Sweden, the process is similar to applying to college. Forsling wasn’t really thinking about basketball at the time, but he got picked for the regional team, and he gave it a try. He turned some heads and was selected for the U-15 national team. Around this time, he started meeting people who helped him figure out a path to continue growing in the sport.
2021 class Swedish center Sebastian Forsling (‘02) has announced his commitment to New Mexico.— Eurohopes (@Eurohopes) May 9, 2021
Forsling averaged 8.5 PTS, 4.3 REB and 1 BLK in the Swedish first division with Fryshuset after moving from @RIGMarkBG pic.twitter.com/ykydT3aRJA
“Early in high school Sebastian made contact with a wonderful guy, Steve Lowry, who has been helping him and his teammates in Sweden with contacts with schools in the US,” Forsling’s father, Bengt, said. “Steve really believed in Sebastian. He has been there the whole process supporting him in every way.”
Lowry was a big help for Forsling’s move to the U.S., but before he even decided to make the trip, he had to be convinced that basketball was the right thing for him. Forsling said that when he was younger he just saw basketball as a way to spend time with his friends, who were all on the same team.
If it wasn’t for his high school coach Michael Bree, Forsling might not have continued.
“I didn’t think much about hard work for basketball because I thought I would just be a normal guy,” Forsling said. “[Bree] showed me what I could become if I do the right things and do it the right way. He went on to be a mentor to me. I could always come talk to him about anything. We would have conversations after practice and ride together after games. He was a very big part of my basketball career.”
Forsling was playing in many different countries including Spain and Poland. More people kept noticing him, and eventually he felt it was time to take it to the next level.
He said going to the U.S. was going to be a big change but that he believed it could open many doors for him as a player. Neither of his parents are serious athletes, so the process of playing Division I college basketball was new to the whole family.
Due to the pandemic, Forsling wasn’t able to visit schools, and the visa process was anything but easy. His dad admitted that making it to New Mexico was looking very uncertain.
“At one time, everyone except for Sebastian thought that the dream wasn’t going to come true,” Bengt Forsling said. “But Sebastian never stopped believing, and on the 20th of August we waved goodbye to our young man to pursue his dream in the U.S.”
Once in Albuquerque, N.M., the work continued. Head coach Richard Pitino considered redshirting Forsling to give him some time to get stronger and learn the American style of play. After a series of unfortunate events, the Lobos became very undermanned and Forsling, a freshman and the only center listed on the roster, had to take on a bigger role than originally expected.
Forsling is the first to admit that he still has a lot to learn on the court. He is averaging under 15 minutes per game and doesn’t have many stats that stand out. He is averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
This however, hasn’t stopped him from becoming a fan favorite. Forsling is the biggest cheerleader for his team whether he is on the bench or on the court. Fans love his positive attitude.
He credits his parents for teaching him to be selfless and kind. They used to go to every one of his games in Sweden, but now it’s difficult to watch because of the time difference. Nevertheless, they make it a point to stay active in his career and call him after every game. His dad has even become an active Lobo fan on Twitter.
Forsling cherishes his parents’ support and hopes to make them proud.
“It’s nice to know your parents are watching,” he said. “It gives you a mental boost. I do this for them. I do this for myself too of course, but I really do it for them so they don’t have to worry when they get older.”