Being delegated to strictly competing in practice my mindset towards my job has changed about what can I do to improve my game and worrying much less about what is best for the team. Each practice I have a plan what moves and spots on the floor I want to get to and the type of shots I want to work on to improve MY game. I am lucky to play for an American coach who likes to have majority of the practice be live 5-on-5. I now treat every practice just like I do when playing open gym back in the states. Since I am playing on such a high-level team with some very good players I have had no choice but to get better on both ends of the floor.
With my improvement in skills also comes improvement of basketball IQ and understanding the pace of the professional game. The players at this level are a little taller and a little quicker, but the pace of the game is much faster than in college and it has to do with the 24-second shot clock. Possessions are a quick-hitter play to get an open shot and then if nothing comes out of the set you just play basketball. During college you are allowed to swing the ball a million times and run at least two sets before you are in a red situation (below 10 seconds on the shot clock). Also, the flow or pace of the professional game is much different due to each type of environment and the emotional state of each player.
College basketball is packed with emotion and the kids playing it oftentimes can be overwhelmed by it both positively and negatively. The ebb and flow of a college game can and are much the same as a roller coaster. The highs and lows of emotion exuberated by college kids is a major part of the game and is a big reason for so much inconsistency night in and night out for teams. One night a team can get hot and ride a wave of emotion to knock off No. 2 Indiana on its home floor and another night lose to an unranked Iowa team. This raw unchanneled emotion is something that fans love and crave but is not always the best way to be consistent on the basketball floor.
At the professional level the highs and lows in games are less extreme because the mindset of professionals is different. The idea of the game changes from being just a game filled with passion and excitement to now being a job and understanding that each possession is just like an assignment at any other 9-to-5 office job. This is not to say that guys do not have passion, are not competitive or have no emotion but the understanding of how to be efficient in doing each assignment/possession is much better understood. Players are much better and more practiced at entering what many psychologists and athletes refer to as "the zone."
The zone — or pro-calm that I like to call it — is difficult to describe and is different for each player but for me it is being in the same mental state as I am during a yoga session. Everything is in line and everything seems to come very naturally. My heart rate and breath are under control and the game just makes sense. It is almost like playing has become a place of zen to me now. My confidence is at an all-time high and my understanding for the professional game has really evolved over the past seven months. When I am playing it’s like walking into a test that I already know all the answers to (which I admit happened three times during my days at Madison).
Finally being able to get to this state mentally while playing basketball is difficult for many young players and for myself especially. I have always been very emotional when playing basketball and my passion for this game is something I tried to show every time I put on No. 31. I still have the passion but as I have continued to grow as a person and a player I becoming better at controlling and channeling that passion.
This calmness and understanding of the game is difficult to achieve and sometimes never achieved by players. I am not saying I am all the way there yet and I know that I have a long ways to go but it is a skill that can be practiced and I try to get to this mindset everyday I step on the floor. I am currently reading the book called Finding Flowby Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi which has been extremely helpful with techniques and ideas on how to enter this state not only to be successful on the floor but also in my everyday life as well.
I am playing the best basketball of my life right now and it sucks because it is only in practice. But moving forward the confidence I am gaining in my game will be huge as I move ahead in my career. I am just scratching the service of my playing career and as many seasoned vets have told me I have a lot to learn but I know the progress I have made this season will only continue and will hopefully earn me some big money and some more great experiences traveling the world playing a game as my job.
(Note:You can find the archive of Mike Bruesewitz’s Imported Bru stories and photo galleries here and listen to his latest podcast here.)