DILLON — Montana Western forward Zaccheus Darko-Kelly is the reigning Frontier Conference freshman of the year, but he has taken a noticeable step forward in his second season.

The redshirt sophomore earned Frontier Conference player of the week honors this past week with averages of 24 points and nine rebounds per game against the University of Providence and Montana State-Northern. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 8 in NAIA’s Division I, and the success begins with Darko-Kelly.

“At this point, he’s the most important (member of the team) right now,” said senior guard Dom Robinson. “If he doesn’t have a good game, we don’t do really well.”

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As a 6-foot-2 senior at Missoula Sentinel High School, Darko-Kelly garnered all-state honors with averages of 16 points and five rebounds. Despite his successes at the high school level, Western was the only Frontier Conference school to offer him. He has since sprouted to 6-6 and is quickly turning into the ideal player for head coach Steve Keller.

“He’s hard to guard off the dribble, he’s a good free throw shooter, he’s a good 3-point shooter, and he’s one of our best shot blockers,” he said. “He’s our best athlete, basically.”

Even with the recent production, Darko-Kelly himself doesn’t feel that the respect given to him matches his level of play.

“A lot of people still, I don’t want to say, ‘Sleep on me,'” he said, “but I feel like I could always earn more respect than what I have right now, for sure.”

He is unsure what his ceiling could be, but, if his improvements continue at the rate that they have over the last month, he could be among the top talents in the nation by the time he leaves Dillon.

He will take the floor next on Thursday against Montana Tech.

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