BEMIDJI, Minn. – After four successful years of pulling a green and white jersey over his head, Mason Walters graduated from Bemidji State in May and began pursuing playing basketball after college. In late July, Walters’ dream of playing professional basketball came true when he signed a contract to play with the Bodfeld Baskets Oberharz organization in Germany.
In August, he packed up his life and moved it to the other side of the world to begin his professional career and in September played his first professional game.
“The adjustment has been easier than I thought it would be,” Walter said. “The biggest adjustment has been getting used to things like using euros, traffic laws and signs and playing with a completely new team for the first time in four years.”
The Bodfeld Baskets organization is based in Elbingerode, which is about 167 miles southwest of Berlin, and competes in the North Division of the 1.Regionalliga League. Bodfeld finished tied for fourth in the division last season with a 12-10 record and this season holds a 2-8 mark.
On the court Walters has picked up where he left off from his senior year as a Beaver, by rebounding the ball extremely well and posting double-doubles on a nightly basis. He owns an average of 21.9 points and 13.1 rebounds per game for the Oberharz. His last contest, Nov. 23, was a testament to his success, as he scored 18 points, brought in 17 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor.
“I think the biggest way my game has progressed at the professional level has been attacking the rim from the perimeter,” Walters said. “I have always played outside and shot threes, but with a longer 3-point line to adjust to, shots haven’t been falling as much as I’d like. This has given me a chance to focus on attacking the rim from the outside and expand my game a little more that way. Other than that, I have kept my focus on rebounding hard and helping my team in any way I can.”
In 2012-13, Walters averaged 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and shot 48 percent from the field. His rebounding totals ranked second in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, now he is the 1.Regionalliga League’s top rebounder. Walters is shooting 50 percent (72-of-144) from the field this season and has added 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game. In addition to being the league’s rebounding leader, he leads the conference in efficiency rating and ranks third in scoring.
Just looking at his numbers, it would be safe to say Walters has settled in as a professional basketball player in Germany and by the way he describes his experience so far, he is enjoying his time off the court as well.
“It has been surprisingly easy being the only American on the team,” Walters said. “All of my teammates and coaches speak English, which helps a lot, especially when I have questions or I’m trying to communicate in practice and games.
"Adapting to the culture hasn’t been too difficult,” Walters added. “The food is similar to what we have in the United State, especially in the grocery stores. The lifestyle is not much different where I live either. Elbingerode is a small town, which is something I am used to.”
Walters hasn’t had the opportunity to see the country as much as he has liked, due to his basketball schedule and Elbingerode being a bit isolated from the bigger cities, not much different than his last four years in Bemidji or his hometown of Milton, Wis. He has played in Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover and has plans to do more sightseeing during the team’s break in December and during the spring months.
With the majority of his team and coaches having the ability to speak English, Walters hasn’t had to learn much of the language, but dove in head first to try and pick up as much as he can.
“I have picked things up (with the language) since I got here,” he said. “German is pretty tough, but it’s been fun learning some of the basics. It also makes communicating with the locals a little easier.”
Despite the lack of team success in the win column, Walters is continuing to grow his game and is making the best of his opportunities. He was able to share his greatest moment so far, a home victory, with a visitor, his girlfriend, former BSU women’s basketball player Shannon Thompson.
“I think the greatest moment so far was our first home win,” Walters said. “Our team puts a lot of emphasis on winning for the home fans. We were able to do that in front of a good crowd that included my girlfriend, Shannon, and her dad, so it was nice to get a win and celebrate that with everyone at the game.”
At the conclusion of his senior season at BSU, Walters became the 17th player in program history to reach the 1,000 career points plateau and finished with 1,070 points. His 234 rebounds last season ranks fifth on BSU’s single season rebounding chart, while his 507 career rebounds is eighth all-time at Bemidji State. He was named to the All-NSIC Tournament Team in 2012-13 after averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game through four contests.
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s basketball program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUHoops or @BSUBeavers), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/Bemidji-State-Basketball or facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Mulitmedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).