May 29, 2009
Santa Clara, Calif. - Mitch Henke, a Minnesota native and a 2008 Santa Clara graduate, got quite an education in Europe this past year on and off the professional basketball court. Henke spent the year playing in Luxembourg. The following are some of his memories as a Bronco, why he enjoyed seeing Brody Angley '08 play in a different uniform this past year in Europe and what his future plans are as well.
SCU: Just to update the fans, you graduated from Santa Clara in 2008 with a degree in Finance, correct?
MH: Yes. That is correct.
SCU: A little trip down memory lane. Favorite Bronco memory?
MH: Beating North Carolina my freshman year at Oakland Coliseum the year they won the NCAA title (2005). It was one of their two losses on the year. It was a blast. It is something I will remember the rest of my life.
SCU: The day you graduated from Santa Clara, last June, where did you think you were headed?
MH: Growing up it was my dream to play professional basketball. When it came closer to my college graduation, I knew I was interested in starting a career in banking and finance. I had interviews with a number of companies, and then professional basketball got put on the back burner. After Brody decided to play overseas, I decided I wanted to do it as well and the world of finance could wait for a few years while I had my fun playing basketball overseas.
SCU: Is playing professionally something you and Brody talked about a lot your senior year?
MH: It was something Brody had a chance to do and he pursued it hard. Once I saw him beginning that progress it was something I told myself I had to do as well. It was something I thought I could accomplish. I had never been to Europe before. I had a great time doing it and I wouldn't take it back for the world - playing overseas the past year.
SCU: You at first were in Rome visiting your girlfriend and then went to Switzerland to try out with a team. You found out your last day there that you were offered a contract in Luxembourg. Literally, you were packing your bags to return to the States?
MH: My girlfriend was studying in Rome abroad and I went to visit her there. The plan was see her for her birthday, and right after that I was on the way to Switzerland to try out for a team there. I was able to experience a lot of things I had never experienced before during that time.
After I had been in Switzerland for a little over two weeks, the team I thought I was going to play for had gotten the whole team together and then they said they didn't have enough money to pay most of the players. I continued to practice with that team and contact as many people as I could in Switzerland about playing. I had decided it wasn't going to work out so I booked my flight home, was ready to go home and that morning I got a call from a coach in Luxembourg. A player had gotten hurt and they offered me a contract.
SCU: How did your team do this year?
MH: The team did great. When I arrived the team was 2-3 and in sixth place out of the eight teams in their division. After I arrived, we went 13-2, moved as high as first and finished in second place after the playoffs. I feel like I helped the team move up. The top four teams have a playoff and from that, the top two teams move up to the next division the next year. This next year my team will be playing in the first division.
SCU: What's one of the highlights from this past season for you on the court?
MH: The first highlight was beating the first place team in overtime, which had previously been unbeaten, to start the playoffs. The first place team was known as the best and it is a tough gym to play in, even in the first division. So beating them was a shock to them and for many around the country that didn't think we had a chance. We really showed them our team was for real by playing and winning on their home court.
SCU: How many people live in Luxembourg? And do they support basketball?
MH: Luxembourg is a very small country. It's wedged between France to the West, Germany to the East and Belgium to the North. Many people here think it's a city in Germany. The league has a very hometown feel because they are only allowed one American and if you are in the first division - they allow you one more European; and the rest are from Luxembourg. That's good for the country. There are so many opportunities to play professional basketball for kids in their own country.
SCU: Besides Italy, Germany, Luxembourg - what other countries did you travel to?
MH: Initially I was in Switzerland and I saw a few great cities there. It is one of my favorite places. I traveled to Paris, which was my favorite city overall. I also had a chance to travel to Amsterdam and Brussels. One of the greatest things I took away was the ability to see Europe for the first time, especially the cultures there. It's definitely an eye-opening experience. Everyone should get a chance to travel like that in their lifetime.
SCU: You also caught up with a number of former Santa Clara athletes as well. Can you talk about that a little bit?
MH: Brody obviously was the main person. Originally I was staying with Crystal Matich `08 because she lived in the same town where I was initially in Neuchatel, Switzerland - which is in the northwestern part of Switzerland. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with her and her friends. After that I took a trip to see Brody in Lugano, which is on the southern border of Switzerland.
SCU: Being that you were friends with those two, was it weird to see them in a uniform other than a Bronco one?
MH: Yeah, a little bit at first, but after you meet up with them it becomes so comfortable. You are in a foreign place and don't know anyone, but you are seeing them. They are living the same thing as you so it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun to experience those new things together.
SCU: Any good stories about the times you were together?
MH: When I went and visited Brody I had a chance to actually play with their team for awhile so we had a chance to reconnect on the court together. Even if it was just 45 minutes of practice, it brought back a lot of Santa Clara memories that we made. It was great to have a point guard like Brody passing me the ball again.
SCU: Off the court funny?
MH: When I went and visited Brody it was during "carnival". It's a large celebration and it's similar to Halloween here. We went to a carnival celebration and dressed up and had a good time. We were the Jabawakkes from the MTV dance show - America's Best Dance Crew. It was great because it was pretty simple. We bought white masks like they wear and other than that, we dressed the same. It was a pretty good time. It was great seeing all the creative costumes. It definitely brought us back to our times here at Santa Clara during Halloween.
SCU: So, what's next?
MH: Well, first off I am waiting to hear the new offers coming from the different teams in Europe. I am going to look for a job in the Bay Area in corporate finance or banking as well. And on top of that, considering going to graduate school as well. It will definitely be a process here to see which one fits best.
SCU: Do you consult with anybody or your parents?
MH: A lot of the coaches here, especially Coach Ware because he was confronted with the same type of decision out of college. I also have been talking with Brody. Everyone who has had the same type of experiences is good. Ultimately I will have to take all their advice into account and make the decision myself.
SCU: You have been playing some open gym with the Bronco players. Who has impressed you with their play?
MH: I have to start off by talking about some of the big guys who have gotten a lot bigger since I last saw them. Marc Trasolini, Scott Thompson and Ben Dowdell are all a lot bigger. They were still working their way up in weight. Coach Siara has done a great job in helping them gain weight, which will help them be effective inside and play well at the defense. They are going to be expected to get a lot of rebounds and take up a lot of space.
It's not just them, though, it's all of the players. Guys like Michael Santos, Kevin Foster and all the players have made a step forward with their strength and conditioning. It is a tribute to how hard they have worked and how hard Coach Siara pushed them in the weight room.
SCU: Santa Clara signed one of the players from your former high school, Ray Cowels. He will be a freshman hear this next year. Do you know Ray Cowels?
MH: Yeah, I got a chance to speak with him when he was making his decision on what school to attend. Hopkins (High School) is very close and players keep in touch after they have gone their separate ways. To be able to help him with his decision and for him to chose Santa Clara - I told him it was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I told him he would be at a place where he would fit in as well and that the coaches would really help him.
SCU: Have you seen him play? Who would you compare his game to?
MH: It's hard for me to compare people's games. I can explain his game, but comparing him to people is sometimes tough. He will be able to play right away at the Division I level because he's a smart player. The first thing the coaches will ask him to do: can he play defense and rebound? He has a chance to be a great rebounder and defender. When I was coming to Santa Clara, I was told I would have to play defense and rebound first. He's a guy who can step in and help right away. On top of that, he will be a good shooter, especially from the wing. He will bring a lot of things to the table when he comes here for next year. And he is a good student as well and that's why I think it will be a great fit. He said he wasn't just coming for basketball, he also wants to get a great education.
SCU: You were awarded the WCC Post-Graduate Scholarship Award as the top male scholar-athlete in the WCC last year. With that scholarship, you were awarded $5000 towards graduate school? So any idea of where you would want to go?
MH: Being in the Bay Area, there are two great choices for graduate business schools. Santa Clara obviously has a great school and Stanford is also very good. Those are the two I would obviously be considering. I love Santa Clara and know they have a great program.
SCU: So if you don't go to Europe next year and start school in the Bay Area, does that mean you will be coming a lot of home games in the future?
MH: Definitely. Definitely. I will be a Bronco supporter for many years to come.