After spending a season in Croatia, Nelson basketballer Max Darling is about to embark on the next chapter of his career.
The 18-year-old has been named in the Junior Tall Blacks squad which will travel to Greece for the world championships starting later this month.
A stint in Europe has only taken the 6’5” former Canterbury Ram’s game to new heights.
Max says he was in for quite the culture shock upon arrival in Croatia.
“It was different, the first three months were pretty hard being a new county, different language, different food, it took me a while to adjust.”
However, as soon as Max took to the court he felt right at home.
“Once we got into the swing of playing games it made things a lot easier because basketball is what makes me happy, so I started to relax a bit.”
He says he has grown to love the food and the people.
“They are a little crazy, but it makes life fun.”
Max also had to pick up some Croatian phrases in order to communicate with his coach.
“We got a new coach about halfway through the season who didn’t speak any English, so I had to pick up a bit.”
Max’s side finished the national league in fifth, its best-ever placing.
After spending the majority of the season’s first half on the bench, Max got the chance to shine later in the year.
“I had a rough start, I got about three minutes per game averaging about 2 points, but with the new coach I started getting about 25 and averaging 18.”
This was not the only positive impact the new coach had on Max.
“I changed positions, went from power to small forward, he thought I’d be better there, and I think I am the right height for a small forward.”
His side, Vrijednosnice Osijek, played in a national and international league, meaning Max got to travel around Europe playing the game he loves.
“We went to Prague and Budapest, that was a real highlight.”
After spending two weeks in Nelson, Max boarded a plane last Wednesday bound for France, where the junior Tall Blacks will play warm-up games before heading to Greece.
The rare downtime has been welcomed by Max.
“It’s been really nice, catching up with friends and enjoying mum’s cooking.”
Following the world champs, Max hopes to declare himself for the 2020 NBA draft as he chases his dream of playing in the world’s premier competition.