PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Home is a relative term for Bradley’s Rienk Mast and Malevy Leons.
They are from the Netherlands and last summer they were home to play and practice with the Dutch National Team.
“Growing up, those guys were my idols,” Leons said. “Here it would be like playing against NBA players. It’s nice to see that I can play at that level.”
Leons and Mast have helped Bradley to a 13-7 record. The Braves are 6-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference with a big game against Belmont (14-6, 7-2 in MVC) at home Saturday.
Bradley will be seeking its 18th straight win at home. But Mast and Leons also feel the tug of home when they think about playing in the Netherlands.
“To represent your coach is a great honor. I’ve looked up to these guys for a long time,” Mast said. “I got to play with them and feed off them, learn things. It was great.”
The Bradley teammates trained with the national team for two weeks as it prepared for the European Championships. And they were able to play in exhibitions against Germany and Lithuania.
“Over there you get to play against the best competition Europe has to offer,” Mast said. “You come back here and try and implement stuff you picked up.”
Leons says he learned a lot in those two weeks with the national team.
“I learned to be more assertive. I learned how to pace with the team,”: said Leons. “I learned what it’s going to be like to be a pro.”
Mast and Leons are hoping to have pro basketball careers after college. And perhaps someday they’ll be teammates on that national team back in Holland.
“We’ve got a little taste now.” Mast said. “I think we both have the goal to play professionally and at some point to be fully on the team. It would be an honor. It would be great.”