Brent Schuster Gets Taste of European Basketball During Weeklong Trip Overseas
Thursday, June 30, 2011
By Sports Information Student Assistant Andrew Knot
His commitment to basketball didn’t allow Brent Schuster the opportunity to travel abroad during his four years at Calvin. All of that changed just weeks after graduation, when basketball gave him that exact opportunity.
Along with eight of the top players in Division II and III and their coach Brett Nichols, of Oberlin College, Schuster, the Knights’ standout center, spent 10 days touring Europe and competing against club teams. The trip, put on through an organization called USA Athletes International took him through Austria, Slovenia, and Italy, and massed a total of four games, in which his team finished 3-1.
Schuster, along with a few Calvin teammates, were invited on the team towards the end of his senior season. Immediately interested by the opportunity to extend his basketball career and explore a previously unseen part of the world, he looked further, even contacting some Calvin Basketball alumni with international basketball experience.
“I hadn’t had an opportunity to go on an interim trip through Calvin, so I figured this would be a great opportunity to experience some of Europe,” said Schuster.
Schuster and his team, dubbed Team USA Euroslam—a national collection of players from seven different states – flew into Vienna, Austria. They spent time touring the city and then played their first game in Wiener Neustadt, a southern suburb of Vienna.
Team USA walked away with a 91-72 victory after a competitive opening half. Playing the forward position, Schuster was instrumental in a 21-0 run to close the first half, scoring five points. He finished the game with five boards to complement his scoring.
Game two took place, in Klagenfurt, a south-Austrian city of 90,000 on the Wörthersee Lake. Despite falling behind 9-2 in the game’s opening minutes, the Americans fought back to take a 20-18 lead at the quarter break. Shortly after Team USA Euroslam saw a 15 point fourth quarter lead evaporate, Schuster knocked down a bucket to make it a two-possession game and the Americans held on to their advantage, winning by a final score of 87-77. Schuster ended the game with an impressive 17 points and six rebounds and left Head Coach Brett Nichol saying, “He really carried us in game two.”
From there, and after a few pit-stops in picturesque Alpine villages, Team USA Euroslam made its way to Slovenia, where they suffered their first loss of the trip. In the centrally-located capital city of Ljubljana, the American squad lost by a score of 81-74.
Team USA crossed Slovenia’s western border into Italy for their final game, in which they squared off against the Marghera Giants, just outside of Italian historical and cultural hotspot, Venice. Schuster had two points and five rebounds in the Americans’ 92-80 defeat of the Italian squad.
Schuster noted multiple adjustments in the transition from DIII ball to the international game. Among the least of those was learning to play was eight teammates he hadn’t previously known. He noted great camaraderie within the group as they bonded through discussion of their respective teams.
“It takes a while to become a good team, but we had a great collection of talent and couple of really good coaches, so we were able to come together quickly and play well,” he said.
Even Schuster, who, at 6’10” surprised more than a few opponents with his range from the outside, was taken aback at the prominence of the perimeter game in European basketball.
“I was amazed at the ability everyone had to shoot the ball well from the outside,” he said, and quickly noted the alteration that signaled for defensive philosophy: “Every player on the teams we played could shoot well so it was a little bit of an adjustment to make sure we stayed up on all of the players on the perimeter.”
But Schuster’s game proved a seamless translation to the European style, just ask Coach Nichols, who called him “the perfect kind of player” on a college select team like Team USA Euroslam.
“His ability to play three positions on the floor and his ability to defend multiple positions was important to our success,” said Nichol. But Nichol didn’t stop at Schuster’s physical capabilities.
“Furthermore, his unselfish attitude made him fit in well and he really stepped up for us on both ends when we needed someone to make a play,” he added.
The trip wasn’t entirely about basketball, however, though basketball gave occasion for the opportunity. Schuster, who cited Venice – with its canals, gondolas, and unique otherworldly allure as a highlight – raved about the European experience, and the chance to represent his country abroad.
“It was an awesome opportunity to be able to play basketball with USA across my jersey and see places I’ve never seen before. I was so fortunate to be involved in something like this just because of basketball,” he said.
Schuster, a Sports Management major at Calvin, hopes to convert his passion for the game of basketball into a career, possibly within his favorite hometown organization, the Denver Nugget. No matter where basketball takes him, he remains grateful to Calvin for the role it played in getting him there.
“I know I will miss playing at Calvin and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to play in such a great program. I enjoyed telling my teammates on the trip about the things we do in the Calvin basketball program, the facility we get to play in, and the support we have from our community,” he concluded.