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For Zack Novak, playing professional basketball in the Netherlands probably isn't a stepping stone to bigger things in hoops.

The Chesterton and Michigan graduate knew that when he signed the contract with Landstede in Zwolle.

"It was just a chance to play ball, to do something new," Novak said.

In the process, it's also been a chance to do something old. A role player at Michigan, where his value wasn't measured in big stats, Novak leads his playoff-bound team in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game, and 3-pointers (82).

He blew up for 41 points Feb. 7 against Den Helder K., hitting 14 of 23 shots, including six 3s.

"It's a lot different than college," Novak said. "It's more like high school. I score more. I do more shooting. I've had a pretty decent year."

As always, Novak's also doing a little of everything, posting per game numbers of 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 steals, in addition to a team-best 86.2 free throw percentage.

Novak is one of four Americans on the roster, per league rules.

He, Tanner Smith (Clemson), Darryl Webb (Indiana, Pa.) and Josh Magette (Alabama-Huntsville) are the top four scorers for Landstede. The balance of the roster and coaching staff are Dutch, but coach Herman van den Belt speaks English, so communication isn't a barrier.

"I know enough to get by," Novak said. "It's an interesting language. It sounds like everyone's clearing their throat."

He shares an apartment with six teammates, but it's not as cramped as it sounds, with each of them having his own space.

Social media like Face Time and Twitter keeps him in contact with friends back in the States. Food's not an issue either.

"It's not that far from American," Novak said.

He particularly recommends a kabob-type item.

"If they were sold in America, everybody would love them," he said.

Landstede (19-16) opens the playoffs next week, likely against Leeuwarden. After that, Novak will return to Ann Arbor, where he'll run a basketball camp this summer. Beyond that, his future's wide open, with a return to the Netherlands among his considerations.

"I'm weighing all my options," Novak said.

He graduated from Michigan with a degree in business and has talked before about running his own company at some point.

Novak has already had success marketing a personalized 'Chicks Dig Scars' t-shirt emblazoned with an image of himself bleeding from the eyebrow. 

One way or the other, he has no regrets about his year in Holland.

"It was a good decision," he said. "I learned a lot about myself. Going to a different situation, to another country, right out of college, you're working basically.

"You see a lot of things and meet a lot of great people. I've enjoyed it. It opens your eyes to a world that's bigger than Ann Arbor or Chesterton."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.