Max Darling in action for the Canterbury Rams against the Nelson Giants last season. Photo: Evan Barnes/Shuttersport.

Max makes an impression in Europe


Nelson’s Max Darling is the kind of athlete who could’ve enjoyed success no matter what sporting path he walked.

Standing at 6’5”, Max’s towering presence and athleticism made him a force to be reckoned with in almost every sport he played.

Representing the region in rugby, volleyball and basketball, it is the latter that Max has truly excelled at, having signed a professional contract last year.

The former Nelson College star has been plying his trade in Croatia for KK Vrijednosnice Osijek.

The side are 6th on the HT Premijer liga, the country’s premier basketball competition.

“European basketball is a whole different game to what we play in New Zealand, which was somewhat difficult to adjust to,” Max says.

He says, while life is a lot different, “it has been a very good learning experience”.

Max represented Tasman in basketball at U13, U15 and U17 level, as well as New Zealand at U16, U18 and now U19 level.

He has already shown he belongs on the national stage.

He was invited by Paul Henare to attend the Tall Blacks training camp last year and is currently part of the wider Tall Blacks squad.

The Junior Tall Blacks not only made top four at their FIBA World Cup qualifying tournament in Thailand in 2018, which meant they qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Crete, but they also beat China in the semi-final and narrowly lost to Australia in the final.

Max was the leading scorer in the final with 20 points and eight rebounds.

He first started playing basketball at 12 at Nelson College Prep.

In his final school year, he was awarded a basketball scholarship at Christ’s College in Christchurch.

After finishing high school, Max starred in the 2018 season for the Canterbury Rams, being named the NZNBL Rookie of the Year 2018.

He then considered a number of basketball scholarship offers from Div 1 colleges in America, but through his Los Angeles-based agent was offered a pro contract in Europe beginning in August 2018.

Max decided at that point to bypass college and has fast tracked his basketball career by turning pro at age 17.

He says he hopes to keep progressing his career and hopefully more national honours will follow.

“My goal for right now and the future is to play to the best of my ability for the team I am in and see what happens from there.”