Former Cardinal hardwood legend taking his talents on the road to Brazil
From Redwood Falls to Brazil, Mike Busack's basketball journey has been a unique one to say the least.
The former Redwood Valley High School legend is heading to Brazil on Monday as part of the USA Division II Men's Basketball team that will compete against top Brazilian teams in a once in a lifetime international basketball experience.
Identified as one of the top Division II basketball players in the nation following a solid career at MSU-Mankato and Augustana, Busack was invited by former Division I Head Coach and International Basketball expert Ron Smith and Division II Hall of Fame Coach Robert Corn (Missouri Southern) to be a part of the group that also includes other Division II standouts from across the country.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for not only a great international basketball experience but for educational, cultural and social growth," Busack said, "I'm hoping as a group we will reinforce the power of sports in the communities we visit and I'm excited to touch the hearts of the Brazilian people and encourage them to embrace the valuable lessons sports can give."
Busack will head to Orlando first and then travel to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to play in four games against Brazil's best talent (July 31-Aug. 9). The team will visit communities, schools and clubs as part of the social and cultural outreach with the visit.
Following his final season of collegiate ball this past spring, Busack has stayed active on the court, playing in the highly competitive Twin Cities Pro/Am League. His current team includes current Minnesota Gopher players Nate Mason and Amir Coffey, former Gopher Trevor Mbakwe and current Timberwolves center Cole Aldrich.
Following a standout career for Redwood Valley, one that included scoring over 1,700 career points and leading the Cardinals to within overtime of the State Championship game in 2011, Busack signed with MSU-Mankato. It was a homecoming of sorts, with his father Tom playing for the Mavericks from 1980-82.
During his three seasons with the Mavs, the team went an eye-opening 90-20 overall (.818 winning percentage), winning back-to-back NSIC Conference championships and hosting the Division II Regional Tournament twice.
"Being a Maverick helped me bring my game to new levels," he said, "Having to fight day in and day out for meaningful minutes, knowing that there was a long line of talented players eager for their opportunity waiting behind me helped bring my competitiveness to a whole new level."
During his junior season, Busack had the realities of life enter into the equation when his father Tom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His initial response was to try and use his father's condition as a motivating tool but over time, the emotional burden of dealing with such a difficult situation led to him moving on from the program midway through the season.
"Partway through the season the coaches and I made a mutual decision for me to leave the team," he said, "Finding out my dad had a short time to live played a big role in my decision to put down the ball for a while and reevaluate my priorities."
Despite the difficult decision to leave, in hindsight, Busack knows that it was the right one.
"Although it may sound awful, some of the best times of my life occurred during the last few months of being with my Dad," he said, "I got the opportunity to prepare for his passing, and not many people get that opportunity. I was thankful for each passing second that I was able to spend with him, even if it meant giving up one of the most important aspects of my life at the time."
Following the passing of his father in late March of 2016, Busack got back to work, finishing up his graduation requirements at MSU and then completing 19 more credits during the 10 week summer sessions to enable a final move to Augustana as a graduate student. With one year of eligibility remaining, he travelled to Sioux Falls with a new focus, hoping to use his experience to be a team leader for the Vikings.
His first ever game with Augustana was a memorable one, as he was able to travel to Durham, NC to play against Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils in an exhibition game. He would knock down a trio of three's and lead the team with 11 points and six rebounds in a once in a lifetime experience of playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Along with sporting a solid 3.56 GPA in his first semester of grad level classes, Busack also had a big year on the court, helping beat his former MSU-Mankato squad twice and leading the team in both scoring (16.2 pig) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). He would score in double figures in 29 of the 33 games he played in, led the team in scoring or rebounding in 31 of the 33 games and finished in the top five in school history with 78 made three-pointers (40.4 three-point shooting percentage). He was NSIC Player of the Week three separate times.
For his career, Busack's teams went 114-29 with four NCAA Tournament appearances and he would finish with 1,108 career points, 550 rebounds and a nearly 40 percent three-point shooting percentage.
"The character of the people I was surrounded with at Augustana on a daily basis were second to none," he said, "Words can't truly justify the culture involved in being part of Augustana University. It's something you have to experience on your own to understand what it means to be a Viking." "I am thankful for the support I received at Augustana while adjusting to my new life. Augustana faculty and administration passed on a plethora of outstanding student athletes in order to give me an opportunity that few other schools we're willing to take a risk on, and for that I will always be appreciative.”
With the next opportunity taking him far away from home, the former Cardinal great is hoping to be a beacon of light, banking on his roots as a Cardinal, Maverick and Viking and all of his prior experiences on and off the court to help him be the best person and player he can be.
"Basketball has blessed me with many opportunities," he said, "I'm truly grateful."
Editor's note: Busack is looking for sponsorship to help with the costs of the trip (players had to raise $4500 on their own), if you are interested in helping out you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text/phone at 507-430-5834 or go to www.usa.sportsevents.com.