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Australia, Malta, Luxembourg

After Titan career, Bruinsma chases adventures throughout world

By JOE OSTER/VN SPORTS EDITOR
On November 17, 2015

 

“You can’t chase the night. When the night is over, the night is over. That’s just the way it is.”

William Wesley, better known as World Wide Wes, was speaking on the nightlife, but it applies equally to life after college for athletes, especially basketball.

Evan Bruinsma is still chasing the night, even if he isn’t sure exactly what his “night” is.

He speaks of the possibility of ending his career matter-of-factly.

There is no underlying sadness or regret in his voice. There is no sense of an identity crisis when he speaks on hanging up the sport that has been the fulcrum for his 23 years on this earth.

After finishing his senior season as a Detroit Titan in 2014, Bruinsma tried keeping his options open; professional basketball was still in play. Ironically, he almost picked up a new sport: Aussie Rules Football.

“It’s a mix between rugby, soccer and American football,” said Bruinsma with a smirk. “It’s a little crazy.”

He received a call from the Australian Football League (AFL) during the summer after his senior year and was invited to participate in camp in Los Angeles with 20 other former Division I athletes, mostly basketball and American football players.

Even though he wasn’t even entirely sure what the sport was, Bruinsma, along with former Georgia Southern basketball player Marvin Baynham, was selected from the Los Angeles camp to be flown out to Australia.

Once there, Baynham and Bruinsma worked with Aussie Rules trainers, attended camps and individually worked out for AFL teams. The duo even participated in the AFL Combine (think NFL Combine but for Aussie Rules) where Baynham set the combine record for standing vertical jump.

In a league without enough outstanding athletes to fill their many teams, Bruinsma’s future as an Aussie footballer was looking bright. He was officially invited to an AFL team’s preseason camp.

Right after the invite, Bruinsma received an offer to play professional basketball.

With no guaranteed contract from the AFL, the choice was obvious.

“You know, I’ve played basketball my whole life, and my dream was always to play professional basketball,” said Bruinsma.

The words “professional basketball” may call to mind thoughts of luxury, glitz,and glamor, but definitely not Malta, a small European group of islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

This, however, is where Bruinsma spent the majority of his professional career, playing for Cynergi Virtus, a team in the Malta Basketball Association.

Every team is only allowed one foreigner, with the rest of the roster to be filled out by the Maltese.

As an American, Bruinsma filled this “foreigner” slot and took the league by storm.

In his first half-season (which concludes at the start of the new year), Bruinsma led Virtus to the league championship and averaged nearly 33 points per game.

Thanks to a clause in his contract, Bruinsma was allowed the opportunity to switch teams if he so chose after the first half-season.

Looking for better competition and a new challenge, he signed a deal to play in Luxemburg for Amicale Steinsel.

In his nine games for Amicale, Bruinsma again dominated while averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds per game.

With the basketball itch scratched and not completely satisfied, he left Europe after the season and returned to the United States, where he helped coach a youth basketball program called Basketball Basics and competed in $1 million winner-take-all basketball tournament, aptly titled The Basketball Tournament.

Bruinsma saw these moments as a breath of fresh air.

“I really enjoyed that weekend playing in The Basketball Tournament. It’s a lot different playing basketball back here (in the United States) than it is overseas,” said Bruinsma. “Even in Luxemburg, where we had a couple other Americans on the team, it’s a different style of game.”

Unfortunately, playing that American style of basketball for a living isn’t really an option for Bruinsma. Realistically, it’s overseas or bust.

“When you go overseas and play professional, it’s a different atmosphere,” Bruinsma explained. “Especially over there (in Malta and Luxemburg), the Americans do everything. If it goes wrong, it’s automatically your fault, you know… It’s not the same type of camaraderie you had at university Division I basketball.”

With this realization, Bruinsma is contemplating hanging up his basketball shoes and getting a “real job,” as he put it.

With a degree in finance from UDM, Bruinsma has some options.

(He turned down a job offer from Ford Motor Company after graduation to keep his basketball dreams alive.)

Nonetheless, Bruinsma still seems quite levelheaded about the “real world” and life after basketball.

“I wanted to see what it was kind of all about and get the experience of going over to Europe and seeing different places and traveling a bit,” said Bruinsma. “I did it for a year.”

And now he must make some decisions.

The night may be ending, but Evan Bruinsma will be here in the morning.

 

Editor’s note: In the interest of transparency: The author played alongside Bruinsma in The Basketball Tournament that is mentioned in the story. 

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