Mike Bruesewitz: Road trip differences as pro and in college

A team meal after a home game in Jerusalem.

Mike Bruesewitz

So for the past eight years or so I have been pretty much living my life on the road in different cities in the U.S. and now throughout the world. Since I was 15 years old I have stayed in probably 250 or so different hotels in different cities all because of basketball. Basketball has allowed me to travel and experience all walks of life in several different states and countries.

Road trips are an exciting time in any basketball player’s life, whether it is in AAU or as a professional. There is a certain feeling or buzz that is hard to replicate then when you are traveling with a team. It is viewed both as a business trip but for me most of my fondest memories and greatest bonds with teammates have been formed on the road.

The feeling I have when on a road trip is almost like we are going to take on the entire city/university/country and the only people you can rely on are the 25-35 people who accompanied you on the trip. This was especially true in college and playing in the Big Ten where we would face some of the most hostile crowds in the country.

The schedule and routine for road trips both in college and as a pro are relatively similar. A big change from college is we no longer have the luxury of charter jets and I now have to travel like everyone else. This sucks and I was completely spoiled for four years. At Wisconsin, we never had to wait in line or go through security to check our bags. We would drive our bus from the Kohl Center right on to the tarmac and stroll onto the plane feeling like a boss. Yes, even gingers can feel like a boss now and again and those happened to be one of those times.

Now every time I enter the airport I get asked if I am trying to blow up the plane. The other thing that bites the big one is layovers because I just love spending hours waiting around in an uncomfortable seat while waiting to sit in an even more uncomfortable one on the plane. Seriously, this is a bunch of malarkey and I am excited for the day when I can once again fly charter (I’m looking at you UW alumni for a little help with this).

Once arriving at our destination the routine is always the same. Grab something to eat and get ready for practice. The older I get the harder these practices become because airplanes are still made to only fit the vertically challenged and I clearly do not fit into that category. It usually takes a good 45 minutes into practice to finally get the sensation back into my knees from being jammed up against a seat back for several hours while the 4-foot grandmother dangles her feet in the exit row.

OK, enough with the gripes about the plane ride. After practice there is the typical team meal which is usually prepared by the hotel kitchen. The spread is pretty much universal and consists of: fruit, salad bar, soup, bread, steamed vegetables (broccoli), salmon, chicken, pasta and some type of dessert. This has been on the menu for the last five years of my life and I do not want to sound ungrateful but sometimes a little variety would be nice.

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I have stayed in so many hotels that all the rooms and beds just seem to blur together but the thing I always remember is the food. Every player will tell you that they remember hotels by how good the food because it is often times the very first question asked at every meal and the appropriate ranking is then given in comparison to other road trips.

After the meal everyone has their own routine. Some guys head up to the room and watch a movie, while others head out and visit friends or family that they know in the area. But on every team there is a group that I like to call the lingerers.

I define the lingerers as those members of the team who stay down in the meal room talking and enjoying each others company well after the meal has been completed. I deem the them the lingerers because it is always apparent that the waiting staff is none too happy with us since they want to clean the room while we sit around until we run out of things to talk about or finally get kicked out.

Depending on the chemistry of the team this group can consist of entire team or two or three guys. On my current team I am part of a group that consists of Josh Duncan, Ronald Dupree and Chanan Coleman. These guys are all vets and I find myself asking them all kinds of questions about both life and basketball and they have been a huge influence in my first year abroad.

The day of the game schedule I believe is almost universal. There is breakfast in the morning followed by a team meeting and a shootaround, in no particular order. There is the pregame meal and then everyone gets into their own personal game routine. From there it’s game time and it is all business when you step in between those lines.

In college, after the game we would immediately board or charter flight and head back to Madison. But now as a professional we are at the mercy of the airlines and fly out the next day. There are two other big differences between college and professional road trips. In college someone is always responsible for us and they need to know where we are at all times, and for good reason ‘cause kids do dumb stuff, and there is a giant microscope on these programs at all times.

As a professional, road trips have a much different feel. No one is watching over you and there is no need to check in with anybody, just as long as you show up on time to team meetings. Also, as a professional it has a much different feel because we do not spend as much time together as we did in college. Most guys have families and lives outside of basketball that they go to after our practices and you will not see them ‘till the next day.

In college, I roomed with Jared Berggren and Dan Fahey, and five of my other teammates lived in the same building with me. We were constantly spending time together so on road trips it was much the same. Now as a professional I really look forward to taking a road trip because there is so much time spent together as a team and it is a nice change of pace from the sometimes lonely life that is adulthood.

(Note: This is the third entry for Mike Bruesweitz’s Imported Bru blog. You can find the archive of stories and photo galleries here and listen to his latest podcast here.)