MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Max Bjorklund’s journey to Marquette was an unconventional one. After playing two seasons at Bemidji State where he showed flashes of his potential on the court, Bjorklund chose to the enter the transfer portal. What Bjorklund didn’t know was that decision would re-spark an old relationship and alter the projection of his playing career.
“I recruited Max at Bemidji,” said Matt Majkrzak, the head coach for NMU. “I was the assistant coach and he was a high school kid. We offered him, got to know him a little bit and got to know his family. I’d love to say that immediately Max entered the transfer portal and called me and said he wanted to come but that wasn’t the case. He entered the portal and I refreshed it one day and I saw his name and I said that I know he’s really good let me just shoot him a text and see what happens.”
“I had a little bit of a rough journey at my old school Bemidji State,” said Bjorklund. “There was a few reasons why I left but when I was leaving I wasn’t expecting to come here at all. Honestly, I was expecting to go to a local D3 near my hometown but Coach Matt came out of nowhere. I had a previous relationship with him in the past so I gave him a chance in recruiting and I came up here took a visit and here I am.”
After joining the men’s basketball program prior to the 2020-21 season, it didn’t take long for Bjorklund to introduce himself.
In one singular moment, Bjorklund officially arrived as a member of the Northern Michigan Men’s Basketball team.
“It was kind of a blur,” said Max Bjorklund, a 5th year senior for NMU. “Honestly, it just happened. A lot of people were asking if I was planning to dunk it or was that your mindset coming in and plays like that kind of just happen.”
Bjorklund continued to stand out on the court for the Wildcats and develop as a leader for the team, but no one really could have expected the type of player he would eventually become.
This season Bjorklund was named the GLIAC conference Preseason Player of the year, voted on by the leagues coaches.
“I’d be lying if I said that I knew he was going to become a Preseason Player of the Year or score 48.5,” said Majkrzak. “Those special types of talents, you have an inclination that they can reach that but there is so much that goes into being that and it became pretty clear that when he got here that he had some of those special characteristics that could potentially lead to him being at least a star.”
“It was an honor to get that award,” said Bjorklund. “Honestly, that was an award for what I did last year. So, that really means nothing for this year and this upcoming season. So, for me it just shows the league knows what I can do but I have to go out this year and prove that again.”
What might be even more impressive than his growth on the court is his growth as a person off of it.
“He’s always been a great person but he really is a mature adult,” said Majkrzak. “He’s changed in the sense of he came in a kid, a college kid, a basketball player. Now he’s a leader, he’s a grown up, he’s going to make a fortune someday doing incredible things. He just has all the it intangible stuff. I think his biggest strength isn’t basketball. He has a life outside of basketball.” and he’s just a winner at everything he does.”
“Every college basketball player is going to go through adversity in their time and it’s honestly about keeping a positive mindset,” said Bjorklund. “I’m a big believer in God so keeping your faith in Him and just keeping with your teammates and keeping with the brotherhood. I heard something today, you don’t want to base your mental health off of basketball and you want to get that somewhere else and basketball is just something you do a long with that. So, just because you have a bad game doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or you have to feel depressed. It’s about showing up the next day and just getting better and keep moving on.”
It’s that maturity and mindset the kept Bjorklund with the team.
“I think one of the coolest parts about this year is Max in a normal situation would be graduated and into the real world but because of the COVID things everybody got a fifth year,” said Majkrzak. “So now he’s in his fifth year of college and he decided to stay at Northern to finish his degree which I think talks about his loyalty and his commitment to education and I think that’s all another learning lesson for all of our guys and a great leadership quality. The fact that he chose to come back here for his fifth year when undoubtedly he could have gone to a lot of different places and he wants to be here and he wants to make this program special and win.”
The Wildcats have begun the season 3-0 but are just getting started.
“I think we’re honestly a scrappy team,” said Bjorklund. “We’re a little bit undersized so we got to to do a lot of the little things we got to rebound and play hard defense. But, we got shooters so when we get hot we’re really tough to beat.”
For Bjorklund and the rest of the Wildcats, the end goal is clear.
“The NCAA Tournament is the goal this year,” said Bjorklund. “We got the team to do it and we got all the pieces we need. If we can just lock in and get a little bit better every single day that should be the end goal.”