Mike Schachtner's European basketball career reached a new height when his team in Leiden won the league championship in The Netherlands last month.
Schachtner produced one of the biggest moments of his career at the end of the opening game in the best-of-five championship series against Leeuwarden in late May. Leiden trailed the entire game, cutting the margin to two points in the final seconds. As Leiden pressed, the ball was knocked free. Schachtner scooped up the ball at the three-point arc and immediately released a shot. It swished through the net with :05 on the clock, giving Leiden a 74-73 victory.
"The place just erupted," Schachtner said. "I can't remember ever really having a game-winner before. I just instinctively shot it."
After winning the championship, Schachtner, a Somerset native, has returned to the United States for the summer. He is spending the summer in Portland, Maine, where his wife, Andrea, is working after she attended graduate school there.
The Netherlands is the fourth country in which Schachtner has played during his basketball career. He has spent previous seasons in Austria, Hungary and Romania. Schachtner said it is common for American players to change teams on a yearly basis because the European teams are only allowed a limited number of foreign players on their rosters.
"I'd like to play for (Leiden) again, we'll see what other options come up," Schachtner said. "We had a good group of guys, a really professional club."
He said nearly everyone in The Netherlands speaks English, which made it a much easier adjustment. He said living in English-speaking countries is a priority in choosing where he plays next season.
There was one other American player on the Leiden roster, plus another from Canada and a player who had dual American-Netherlands citizenship.
Schachtner averaged 14 points per game this season, hitting more than 50 percent of his shots from the field. He said because Leiden had such good balance, he wasn't counted upon to be the primary scorer in every game.
While Schachtner played the four position during the season, he said it didn't involve a great deal of playing with his back to the basket in the post.
"It's a little different game (in Europe). There's a lot more team ball. They involve a little more finesse. They have a lot more veterans who can't outmove you but they can outthink you," he said.
Schachtner said the biggest drawback to playing in Europe is spending most of the year away from his wife. He said he did get to come home for a week at Christmas and technology like Skype has helped deal with the distance apart.
"We've gotten better at being apart, but we don't want to get too used to it," he said. "The most important thing is our relationship."