Lahti Basketball in Finland is coming off a rough year and is rebuilding, with a new coach and potential star import in Minnesota Duluth forward Brandon Myer of Superior.
Myer might be just the man for the job.
“I’m pretty comfortable in that situation,” Myer said, laughing.
That’s because UMD went 4-25 in Myer’s first season in 2016-17, but the Bulldogs got better every season since then, and so did he. Myer, who averaged 23.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in leading the Bulldogs to a 22-9 record this season, signed a pro contract with Lahti Basketball in a move announced Tuesday.
Myer leaves UMD as the Bulldogs’ all-time leading men’s basketball scorer.
“I really like the fit between the coaching staff and the management,” Myer said. “I like their overall philosophy, and I’ve heard it’s a great place to start for a rookie.”
Lahti Basketball plays in the Korisliiga, the highest-tier league in Finland.
If Myer proves his mettle, it is a potential stepping stone to playing in Europe’s top leagues.
“I have to go over there and prove myself,” Myer said. “I have to stay focused. This is a good basketball league.”
Myer had better be ready to run.
Lahti Basketball’s new coach Pieti Poikola plans on going 10 players deep and implementing a full-court press, something Americans aren’t used to seeing at the professional level.
“I’m sure he’s trying to stay humble, but he seems very excited about the players and the direction the organization is going,” Myer said. “I think it’s going to be a change of pace. Sounds like he wants to have players who when they rebound the ball, they can take it upcourt and make a lot of decisions on the fast break.”
As an “import,” and that’s what they’re called, an import, Americans are considered ringers. Many leagues have limits on how many imports they can have.
“I hope I’m a ringer, I hope I can live up to that,” Myer joked.
The 6-foot-8 Myer kept improving, and that is what makes him such an interesting prospect. The question, “How good can he get?” has never been answered.
This past season, he became just the eighth Bulldog to attain All-American honors and was named NSIC Player of the Year.
Myer finished with 2,045 career points. He came on like gangbusters at the end, scoring 30-plus points in six of his final seven games, including three where he topped 40 and a career-high 45 against Minnesota State-Moorhead.
“(Brandon) seemed to meet our requirements in terms of defense, presence, ball handling, size, movement and shooting skills,” Poikola said in a release. “The more we watched, the more interested we were. He is a great shooter but is also able to put the ball on the ground with both hands. For the first two years, he played as a post player, so there’s also a repertoire near the basket.”
The more Poikola watched Myer, the more he liked.
Myer will have to prove himself, and his college coach, Justin Wieck, has no doubt that he will.
“It’s kind of like going to college all over again,” Wieck said. “It’s a really good setting for him for his rookie year, and it’ll be really good competition. He’s going to be challenged on both ends of the floor. He’ll be the young guy, and he’ll have to learn their system, and learn their culture. It’ll be a challenge for him, but he’ll be ready for that challenge.”
UMD has been more of a halfcourt team. Even Wieck was surprised when he heard Lahti Basketball will be full-court pressing.
Wieck told Myer he'd better be ready for a track meet and get in the best shape of his life this summer.
“It’ll be totally different. He has to be ready to roll from the first day of training camp,” Wieck said. “I think he’ll be able to do that while providing the offensive spark they’re looking for. There’s a ton of challenges, but at the end of the day, he’s playing basketball. He absorbs information at a very high rate, and he’s a very good basketball player, and a very good person. I have no doubt he’ll be successful.”
Myer laughed when asked how was his Finnish.
“I haven’t even started,” he said. “I wouldn’t trust me in a conversation.”
Myer studied a little bit of Spanish in high school at Superior and can ask where is the “el bano” but that will do him little good here.
Lahti is a city of 120,000 in southern Finland, and at the very least, this will be an experience.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Myer said. “The worst thing that will come out of this is that I get to experience a different culture and enjoy something outside of America. I think that will be pretty cool in itself. And basketball is an international language, absolutely.