john_sebastianFrom a two-hand set-shot artist to a trick shot artist, a one-year basketball star at Salem High School and a four-year star at Southern Illinois University, John “Junior” Sebastian was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

After finishing the three years at Odin High School, Sebastian came to Salem for his senior year and was the leading scorer for the 1938-39 Salem Wildcats, the first team coached by Hall of Famer, the late Michael E. Lenich. Teamed with Richard Robb, Bill Finks, the late James “Hezzy” West and fellow Odinite Jim Bradley, Sebastian led the team in scoring with 223 points of the 626 scored that year.

The Wildcats had a 15-6 record and finished third in the North Egypt Conference. One memorable game was a 5345 victory over Centralia in Trout Gym, when Sebastian’s two-handed “kiss-shot” netted 28 points. He graduated from SIU in 1947, leading the team in scoring for three years. He has been elected to the SIU Sports Hall of Fame.

His stay at SIU was interrupted by a three-year hitch in the Navy as a physical education instructor. After graduation, he signed with the Chicago Gears of the National Basketball League, a team that also had George Mikan on its roster. He played with the Hammond (Indiana) Buccaneers in 1948 and finished in the top ten in scoring in the NBL.

While appearing with the House of DaVid, the bearded clowns of basketball, he caught the eye of Abe Saperstein, the owner of the world famous Harlem Globe Trotters. Saperstein signed Sebastian to play against the Globe Trotters and demonstrate his shooting prowess and amazing trick shots on Globe Trotter tours. With the Trotters, he made three world tours, two South American tours and one to Europe. It was during the latter, at Olympia Stadium in Berlin, he performed before the largest crowd to ever witness a basketball game-75,OOO people. In 1950, he appeared in several scenes in the movie, “The Harlem Globe Trotters Story.”

After his marriage to Marie Petek, whom he met on a road tour, John abandoned basketball touring and Marie said farewell to a career on the stage and in television, and John began his teaching and coaching career at Decatur. After one year he moved to Maine Township High School where he taught from 1953 until his retirement.

Sebastian has appeared on numerous television shows with his ball-handling and shooting wizardry and is in the Guiness Book of World Records making 63 consecutive free throws while blindfolded.

He has performed as “Mr. Two-Hands” as a clown act with his basketball tricks, ball handling and shooting. He has since retired his clown outfit.

Sebastian and his wife, Marie, who also works with him in his basketball act, live in Park Ridge.