Mike Miklusak

Lake Central grad Mike Miklusak has brought his 3-point game to the Dutch Basketball League this season.

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Basketball is really a simple game.

Dribble, pass, shoot, defend.

No matter what corner of the globe you're in, hoops is as routine as orange juice at breakfast.

Mike Miklusak, a 2013 Lake Central grad and former standout at Western Illinois University, feels right at home playing professionally for the Den Bosch New Heroes of the Dutch Basketball League.

The team is based out of s-Hertogenbosch, Den Bosch for short, and is the capital city of the North Brabant province in the Netherlands.

It is a stunning visual postcard featuring historical buildings and monuments, from Gothic cathedrals with Romanesque towers to Dutch Classicism.

This is worlds apart from the Region, though you wouldn't know it by the crowded streets and traffic jams at certain hours of the day.

"The fans here are very friendly and energetic," Miklusak said. "Being that basketball isn't the biggest sport out here, we still have a pretty big fan base.

"There were numerous fans who reached out to me before I even got here, welcoming me to Den Bosch and saying how excited they were to have me."

Miklusak's team has had one preseason game, in Aalst, Belgium, and the gym was a decent size for European basketball with a capacity of 2,000.

"And it was packed," he said. "Our home gym is one of the bigger gyms in our conference, holding over 3,000. But I heard some of the gyms are very small."

Fans are so close to the floor, they ask for high-fives as you run by and you can hear them breathing.

They quickly warmed up to the 6-foot-6 Miklusak because of his solid 3-point shooting.

"My game and my role is very similar to the role I had in college," he said. "I'm starting at the '3' position but will also be playing some 'stretch 4' which will enable me to get a lot of open shots.

"My coach (Silvano Poropat) gave me the green light to shoot whenever I'm open. Coaches and fans definitely love my ability to shoot the 3. That's my strongest asset."

So strong, in fact, fans and media have given him the nickname "American Sniper."

Miklusak had a breakout senior season at Western Illinois, averaging 15.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game and shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc, ranking him 31st, nationally, according to the school's website.

In that first preseason game, an 84-76 win, Miklusak drilled four 3-pointers the first half and finished with 14 points. Top gun for Aalst was ex-Butler star Kellen Dunham.

In fact, each DBL team is allowed five Americans on its roster, up one from a year ago. Miklusak's other teammates include Anthony Marshall (UNLV) and Keshawn Sherrill (Augusta).

"Dutch is a very difficult language to learn, but the good thing is I don't have to worry about that because everyone out here speaks English," Miklusak said. "They're happy to help me out.

"The food here is also very Americanized. We have McDonald's, Burger King, Subway and Domino's."

It's the Region, with a Gothic twist.

Den Bosch is a temporary stop for Miklusak, who is chasing the NBA dream like many players overseas and will likely look for a more competitive league in 2018 to get more exposure.

The regular season is from October through April and features 36 games against nine teams.

Perks? Oh, it's the frosting on the DBL cake.

"They provide me with an apartment and a car with all expenses paid for," Miklusak said. "I get paid biweekly through a wire transfer that goes straight to my bank account in the States and I can request a certain amount of cash to be drawn out of my check to pay for groceries."

Life is good when you're playing your favorite sport in a distant land where everyone likes Americans and you're treated like royalty.

Mike Miklusak never lacked the confidence he could pull this off, thanks to former L.C. teammate Glenn Robinson III of the Pacers.

"Glenn has always given me good advice. He's been a role model for me ever since high school and always told me to follow my dreams," Miklusak said.

"He's taught me that as long as long as you work hard, there's no telling where you can go."

Who knows? Maybe one day, Mike Miklusak is shooting lights out at the United Center.

He's only 22.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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