Mike Bruesewitz: Becoming a pro and the long journey
Hey Badger Nation, I am currently playing basketball professionally in Jerusalem, Israel, and this is the new project on which I’m working with Dave Heller and the boys at FoxSportsWisconsin.com. I can’t tell you how great my experience was as a Badger, as well as all the support I continue to get even after my eligibility ran out on the court. This blog is my best way to stay connected with the great people that call themselves Badgers.
On this blog I will cover my usual day-to-day stuff, as well as a few interviews with teammates and experiences I have traveling around Europe and Asia playing basketball. If you have any questions, topics or things you would like to know, please feel free to ask, as I am always looking for new things to discover and write about. Hope you enjoy my blog and, as always, Go Badgers.
First, I want to provide a look back at one of the craziest weeks of my life, starting with when I woke up to the best email I’ve ever opened. It was from my agent and it contained my first-ever pro contract, with Hapoel Jerusalem of the Israeli Winners League.
No, I was not dreaming. I had wanted to hear this news every day since I was about 7 years old. I had the biggest smile on my face for a million reasons, and a very specific quote came to mind: "One day I can honestly say I made it."
For most athletes, saying that a game is their profession is a special feeling. I decided I would take the day off and enjoy this feeling and share it with friends and family. I wanted to make sure I took the time and thanked everyone who had helped me get to this point in my life.
Soon the time came when I needed to start packing. A huge shout-out needs to go to my mother for making my life virtually stress-free in this department. She successfully packed my entire life for the next eight months into two suitcases. Most of what I took was my young-adult wardrobe, which was also selected by my mother (aka Mrs. Erickson). From there it was once again a matter of playing the waiting game until Oct. 27, when I would start my journey.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, I left for Israel. Here’s a rundown of what happened that day:
9:30 a.m. — Wake up, eat breakfast with my family and get a wonderful send off from Claire, the girl I had been seeing since moving back to Saint Paul, Minn. from Chicago at the beginning of August.
11:05:00 a.m. — Load up the car and double-check for the 12th time to make sure I have everything.
11:05:05 a.m. — Car is started and shifted out of park.
11:05:07 a.m. — Mother’s first tears come running down her cheek. And continue with only short stoppages to blow her nose. Her tears come from the "severe stretching of umbilical cord," as she likes to call it. She wasn’t quite sure if she could handle her baby boy being 6,000 miles from home.
11:15 a.m. — Driving down the highway I graciously thank my parents for all the sacrifices they have made for me to get to this point in my life. Tears turn into sobs and I realize that my mother was probably not the best candidate to drive.
11:20 a.m. — Arrive at the airport and say my final goodbye to my father.
11:30 a.m. — My bags get checked and I hug my mother for the final time.
11:35 a.m. — Standing in the security line, I’m anxious to start my journey. Mother decides she needs just one more hug and grabs me from the line.
11:50 a.m. — Make it through security and walk in completely the wrong direction to meet my good friend Bennett, who bartends in the airport.
12:05 p.m. — Suck down my first margarita and decide I should probably head to my gate, but not before ordering another one to go and taking a picture with the wonderful barkeep.
12:15 p.m. — Arrive at my gate feeling quite relaxed and ready to start the 14-hour journey to my new home.
12:45 p.m. — The tequila hits me, I find myself sitting next to a spritely Irish Catholic woman from NYC and strike up a convo that lasts the entire trip. There were other seats open on the plane but she was a ginger and I felt a strong bond between us, as most gingers do. After landing in NYC, I now had a four-hour layover until my 10-hour flight to Tel Aviv. Apparently, Sunday is the busiest time to fly to Israel and it was quite noticeable by the number Orthodox people who got on the plane. Also, might I add there were a number of beautiful women.
12:45 p.m. (Oct. 28th) — The plane ride sucked even with an aisle seat because I am a giant ginger polar bear and I need an exit row if I have any chance of finding comfort. I blame my agent for not doing this for me because I am now a professional basketball player, and when something isn’t done to make my life easier, it’s always his fault. I saw some quality movies and arrived in the sunshine of Tel Aviv. Once again, another Cheshire Cat smile was glued to my face.
1:35 p.m. — As soon as I arrived I was picked up by our team manager Fass, and a one-hour car ride later we arrived in Jerusalem. The beauty of Israel is incredible with the rolling hills of desert. Outside of Jerusalem there is a vast forest and you almost forget that you are in the Middle East. Fass took me to the neighborhood Ein Kerem, which is known as the most beautiful suburb of Jerusalem — and for good reason. I finally met my new agent, Uri Barnea, in Israel, with whom I stayed until the team found me an apartment. He looks like a cross between Uncle Fester (Addams Family) and Charlie Runkle (Californication).
3:30 p.m. My first meal in my new home was Greek salad and focaccia, a warm bread similar to pizza crust but far more delicious. Then I went straight to my temporary apartment at my new Israeli agent’s house. I had about an hour or so until I was going to meet my new team. They were playing Eilat, which featured another Big Ten player, Christian Watford of Indiana.
I met a ton of people but was so exhausted from my travels that I could not remember the names of any of them. As a matter of fact I don’t remember much, other than getting the feeling of excitement because I knew I had arrived to a great team to which I could contribute.
After the game I came straight home and passed out on a florescent orange couch that was more than a welcoming site. Unfortunately I needed to wake up early to get a physical done in the morning so I knew I was in for a rough couple of days.