The fickle nature of overseas pro basketball can be a challenge for rookie Americans, who are expected to post big offensive numbers but are also quick to be blamed for team shortcomings.
The business side of hoops in Europe has hit home this season for former Dayton standout Darrell Davis, who a year ago this time was in his last season with the Flyers.
Davis, 22, began his pro career last fall here in Szeged, a city of about 200,000 just a few miles north of the border with hoops-crazy Serbia. He averaged 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.9 assists in nine games for SZTE-Szedeak through late November.
The Michigan native lived in an apartment just a few minutes from the sports arena, which is located adjacent to a park in the New Szeged section of the city. But Davis, who started all 31 games at UD as a senior, decided to seek a better opportunity — a common theme for Americans overseas.
“I left on my own decision,” Davis said in a recent telephone interview.
Davis headed to The Netherlands, where he scored seven points in 23 minutes for Den Bosch on Jan. 10 in an 80-39 win over Limburg in the Dutch league. Despite that impressive result he was let go by Den Bosch after just one game.
“I played well in Holland. They needed more of a small forward. I am more of a two guard,” said Davis, a 6-foot-5 guard who reached 1,000 career points at UD in his final game last season.
Davis arrived back in the United States in late January and stopped in to see his girlfriend at the University of Dayton. He planned to head home to Detroit and work out and wait for news on his next step from his agency, GoEmpire Group of Chicago.
Davis may have a decision to make that is common to young Americans just out of college: play in a minor league in North America and be closer to family and friends (and the NBA for a possible call-up) or head overseas, such as Europe, for an opportunity to make more money than the G League offers.
After averaging 15.4 points per contest last season for the Flyers, Davis plans to keep his options open.
“For me whatever opportunities present itself,” he said. “If it’s a good contract I’ll come back and play in Europe. I feel like I have potential.”
Davis had to make the adjustment to a new set of rules in Europe, where games are four quarters of 10 minutes.
“For me, NCAA rules are totally different,” he said. “I would say college basketball is more physical. They call a lot of fouls overseas, which I was not used to.”
The former UD standout was the only American on his team in Hungary. One of his teammates was Toronto native Tyrell Green, who played in college at UNLV. Green was let go in early February by Szedeak, which is near the bottom of the 14-team A league in Hungary.
Other rookie American pros in Hungary this season have included former Providence Friars Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock, and Desonta Bradford, the Southern Conference player of the year last season at East Tennessee State.
“You can’t get homesick,” Cartwright said. “On the court just learn to play basketball (as a pro). In the U.S. we play a totally different way. Every team has their own style of play.”
“The people here are friendly. They give me a little stare sometimes but they always speak. Some of my teammates bring up some of the politics. They actually know more about American politics and history than I thought,” Bradford said.
Another product of the Atlantic 10 who has been in Hungary this season is Darrin Govens, who played at St. Joseph’s and has played around the world since then.
On the women’s side former Dayton guard Kelley Austria has played this winter for a team in Budapest.
Davis had to get used to playing in front of about 1,000 fans in Szeged, about two hours south of capital Budapest by train and car.
That was just part of the adjustment — he said English was not as common in Hungary as in The Netherlands, though his coach in Szeged spoke some English.
“I went to Budapest, I got to see that,” Davis said.
Now he is seeking his next step.
“I am working out and waiting,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Freelance writer David Driver, based in Maryland, has covered the Atlantic 10 Conference for more than 20 years. He lived in Szeged, Hungary for three years with his family and returned this winter to do stories on American basketball players overseas. Driver has interviewed former Division I college players in more than 10 European countries.
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