Well red, well traveled: Mike Bruesewitz undergoing nomadic hoops career overseas

Known for his flowing red afro, basketball has allowed Mike Bruesewitz to travel the globe since leaving Madison.

Image By: Jade Sheng

LONDON — Mike Bruesewitz hasn’t stopped travelling recently.

He’s seen the scenic mountains of Norway, the historical beauty of Malta and even the murky, cloudy skies of Slovenia.

But Bruesewitz isn’t on a boozy Eurotrip or soul-searching expedition around the globe. Rather, the former Wisconsin basketball forward is currently in the midst of a nomadic professional career across Europe and beyond.

“When you come to Europe, you’re in for a very rude awakening a lot of times. I’ve played in high school gyms … When I was in Jerusalem, I was super excited that we had an ice machine in the locker room.”

In addition to Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Israel, Bruesewitz’s career has taken him to Sweden and now Latvia, where he currently plays for Ventspils.

And while the defensively-gifted big man has gotten nose surgery in Latvia, played inside old airplane hangers and on courts with unequal basket heights, there was no clearer indication of his distance away from the comforts of Madison than one wild night in Turkey.

During his time with Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem of Israel, Bruesewitz traveled to Karsiyaka, Izmir to face a Turkish opponent, and took notice of the strong security presence around the team to quell any Jewish-Muslim tensions.

Even in this hostile environment, however, Bruesewitz couldn’t have predicted the forthcoming events.

Fast forward to the day of the game, and Bruesewitz is being calmed by former Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler, a member of the other team, after a couple of scary moments. Hapoel have just had a knife and a bottle of alcohol tossed at them minutes apart, and Bruesewitz is kind of freaking out.

“I was just like, ‘Yo, are we safe here?’ And [Diebler’s] like, ‘Uh, yeah, more or less. If you guys win, I would definitely run to the locker room as fast as you can.’”

But while Diebler and Bruesewitz’s Big Ten pedigree may have catapulted them to a professional career, the latter credits his pre-Wisconsin days with truly preparing him for life overseas.

Bruesewitz was coached by former NBA player Chris Carr at the AAU level and also spent time around pros Kris Humphries, Jared Reiner and Troy Hudson.

The forward says he practiced and played around pros starting at the age of 15, giving him the type of insight and experience that even a four-year career at Wisconsin could not.

But while Bruesewitz has enjoyed Shabbats in Israel and mountainside tours of Norway, there were still some aspects of transition that no mentors could’ve truly prepared him for.

He says it took him a couple of months to get used to the faster, more individualistic style of play overseas, as he was forced to ditch the methodical pace he was taught at Wisconsin.

Furthermore, Brusewitz was forced to live in relative isolation in Slovenia, as he was the only American, stationed 30 minutes outside of the capital city of Ljubljana.

He calls it the “hardest time I’ve ever had as professional,” as he spoke to just one person, a waiter named Tom, for two months.

“Thankfully I got cut from that team,” he said. “I was pretty over being in Slovenia, man.”

Now living in Latvia, Bruesewitz can look back on his past experiences — good and bad — as a seasoned international pro.

He’s played in Greece, Russia and Romania with teammates hailing from Denmark and Lithuania all the way to the Arkansas and Buffalo college programs.

He’s even shared the court with former Ole Miss firebrand Marshall Henderson, as he played on the guard’s squad for The Basketball Tournament in 2016.

Bruesewitz’s talents have taken him across the world and exposed him to a plethora of different cultures and backgrounds.

But through it all — the linoleum courts, the crappy hostels and yes, even the knife-throwers — he sees that Madison has more in common with Malta than you’d think.

“The cool thing is, everyone kinda does the same thing in life, they just do it with different variations,” Brusewitz said. “People try and laugh, people try and smile, generally people wanna be happy, have a good time. Everybody parties, everybody sleeps, so it’s kinda cool, you just get to see how people do it differently in different parts of the world.”

Jake Nisse is currently studying abroad in London. This is the second. of an ongoing series profiling former Wisconsin athletes playing sports overseas.

To read his first entry on former UW women's soccer goalie Geneviève Richard and how UW prepared her for her international experiences, click here.

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