Revitalization overseas

International success for former MSU guard Viktor Henriksson

Submitted Photo Sweden native and former Minot State basketball player Viktor Henriksson (5) celebrates during a FIBA 3x3 European Championship Qualifier game against Belarus on June 29, in Ukraine.

Viktor Henriksson won’t find his name in the Minot State men’s basketball record book. In his single season with the Beavers, the former 6-foot-5 shooting guard didn’t start a single game.

Henriksson, coming off the bench, only scored 12 points.

The Swedish import hardly made an impact on the hardwood for the Beavers during the 2011-12 season. Then, almost instantaneously, Henriksson’s spotlight faded.

His short-lived collegiate career has been forgotten over time.

Eventually, after graduating with the Minot State Class of 2013, Henriksson returned to his home country of Sweden, put the basketball down and walked away from the sport altogether.

“Basketball went out of my life for a while after Minot and then it kind of worked its way back in,” Henriksson said. “I took a break for a couple of years and I didn’t know if I was going to play again or not. Then in 2016, I started playing again, just for fun with friends and my brothers.”

Henriksson fell in love with the game all over again.

Moving up the international ranks while representing Sweden, Henriksson traveled around Europe playing 3-on-3 basketball in the FIBA 3×3 World Tour.

Most recently on June 29, Henriksson — now an experienced veteran at 29 years old and the oldest member on the team — was a part of the Swedish team that knocked off Belarus for the first time ever in the FIBA 3×3 European Championship Qualifiers.

Lithuania, however, beat them the next day to be the only team to advance out of the three-team pool. This wasn’t much of a shock.

“Sweden is currently ranked like 29th in Europe, so we are not one of the top teams,” Henriksson said. “We are big underdogs to the likes of Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, France and Lithuania, who we were eliminated by. They were ranked sixth in Europe.”

Growing up in Uppsala, Sweden, Henriksson was relatively known in basketball circles across the country from an early age.

“It’s a small basketball community,” Henriksson explained. “So, I kind of have always been known in Sweden for basketball ever since I was a kid playing on junior national teams.”

Henriksson, who was once Sweden’s highest ranked player according to FIBA, took his talents stateside.

After a brief stint with Missouri Valley College, Henriksson went out on a limb and continued his United States journey by heading north.

“I was being recruited by the then-coach Steve Grabowski,” Henriksson said. “I was being recruited by a bunch of Division II schools — no DI offers — and I don’t know why I chose Minot State. It was really odd.”

Unable to pinpoint what exactly drew him to Minot State, Henriksson continued: “There were other coaches that were disappointed that I didn’t choose them. They were saying things like, ‘Hey, have you ever been to North Dakota? Do you know where Minot, North Dakota, is? Do you know what you are choosing?’ I was like, ‘No. I have no idea.’ I tried googling them and I couldn’t find any information about Minot.”

The MSU coaching staff in place — head coach Peter Stewart and assistant Grabowski — were persuasive enough to lure Henriksson in.

The Beavers, however, posted a dismal 4-25 overall record in Henriksson’s first and only season.

Current head coach Matt Murken was brought in soon after and the program went through a drastic overhaul leading up to the 2012-13 season, as the Beavers joined the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Henriksson, no longer on the roster, stuck around MSU to graduate and lived in Minot until 2014.

There aren’t any hard feelings for only getting one season with the team. Minot still holds a special place in his heart.

“I loved Minot, it still feels like a second home,” Henriksson said. “People are so friendly in Minot. I came the summer after the (2011) flood, and people were really rallying together and helping out. One of the first things we did with the basketball team was help people in the flood zone.”

Henriksson owns a pair of red, white and green practice sneakers to pay homage to his time spent in Minot and the community that embraced him.

Since leaving, Henriksson tries his best to stay up-to-date on his former team. But, it can be a bit of a challenge.

“I try to cheer them on from far away,” he said. “But, with the time zone difference, it’s hard to watch any games. I follow the results to see how they are doing.”

A familiar name that Henriksson has read about over the years will soon become a rival. Next season, Henriksson is joining the same Spanish league that former Beaver and 2017-18 NSIC Player of the Year, Tyler Rudolph, is currently competing in.

Henriksson has never seen Rudolph play before and is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m proud that others from Minot State are having success overseas,” Henriksson said. ” I think that just proves the quality of the program.”

Henriksson hopes he still has a few good years left in the tank. After continuously telling himself that he would be done playing when he reached 30 years old, now just a year away, there is an itch to stretch that out a few more seasons.

Whatever the future might hold, Henriksson wants to remain around basketball when his playing days are over, whether that’s coaching professional or perhaps teaching his future children.

He doesn’t want to give up the game again.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.