By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — For now, graduate school and a job in the advertising industry will have to wait.
Holden Greiner is putting both of those options on hold as he’s getting a chance to continue his basketball career when he signed a deal to play with Landstede Zwolle, a professional team in the Dutch First Division.
“It’s every kid’s dream growing up playing basketball,” said Greiner. “When you love something you’d love to be able to get paid to do what you love. I know some great players, especially guys who played on my team when I was younger, who just tried and fizzled out. They couldn’t really get good opportunities. A lot goes out to my coaches and my team and my agency just getting me some good offers from some good squads overseas. I’m really excited with the opportunity.”
Greiner was an all-stater at St. Francis, then went on to become a 1,000-point scorer at Lehigh, while earning all-Patriot League first team honors his senior year. From that he had quite a few offers to play overseas and jumped quickly on the one he received from Zwolle.
“My agent said this is the kind of offer you can’t turn it down. Right when we got offered we just jumped on it. It’s a great program. Zwolle is a great place to live,” said Greiner.
Greiner will have an opportunity to move back to his natural position as a wing after playing power forward in his four years with the Mountain Hawks. He is essentially replacing former Michigan captain Zack Novak, who averaged 17.8 points per game with the team last season.
“He did really well for them,” said Greiner. “They signed me to do what he did. They loved what he did. He was a 6-foot-7 wing and kind of plays similar to me. He’s a lot stronger than me so I’m going to have to get tougher, but I’m kind of hoping to do what he did. That’s the plan.”
Typically, the best European leagues are the first divisions in Spain, Italy and France, but the division Greiner is going to is not short on talent, either.
“The level of play is real high. This league gets players from Michigan, this league gets players from Duke, this league gets players from Syracuse. I’d say it’s a really big opportunity for me. I’m going to definitely have to put work in to not fall behind and disappear,” he said. “Lehigh did a great job of preparing me though, so I’m excited and I think I’ll be able to do all right.”
Greiner, who leaves for the Netherlands on Aug. 25, almost didn’t continue his career after his final year in a Lehigh uniform. Feeling burned out from the sport, he contemplated just joining the workforce or going to grad school and getting a masters degree in business/marketing. But he changed his mind within a matter of weeks.
“I took about two weeks off after the season and I missed it so much I knew it wasn’t time for me to step away,” he said. “My parents said, ‘hire an agent just in case’ and that’s what I did. Luckily, you know what they say, parents know best. My agent was doing work for me while I was still figuring things out. I decided I might as well give it a shot because I can work in an office my whole life. I can’t really play professional basketball once you hang them up. I’m glad it’s the decision I made.”
Excitement meets nervousness when Greiner thinks about having to move to the Netherlands, a country where he’s never been. Fortunately for him, it’s a not a difficult culture for Americans to adapt.
“I’ve been away from my family for a long time,” he said. “I’ll be away from them even longer now. I’m glad I’m going to a country where they speak English and it’s a very westernized country. They try to emulate a lot of United States traditions, western cultures, things like that. I’ve heard great things about the Netherlands from multiple people who have been there. My friend Gabe, who was another senior on the team with me this year, he just signed in Bulgaria. They really struggle to speak English there. It’s kind of the opposite of what I’ve been blessed with signing with the Netherlands so it’s a little victory in itself and will make the transition easier.”
Greiner won’t be the only foreign player on the team as there are two other non-Dutch players on the squad, including an American point guard.