GREAT FALLS — Former University of Providence standout and First Team All-American Zaccheus Darko-Kelly played in the NBA summer league for the Toronto Raptors less than a year ago. Now, he’s back in Great Falls for the summer training with one year of professional basketball overseas under his belt.
After one season with the Helsinki Seagulls in Finland’s Korisliiga, the former Frontier Conference Player of the Year had himself a stellar rookie season averaging 11.1 points per game on 51% shooting from the field. Despite the stellar numbers though, it was an adjustment going from the NAIA to playing professional in Europe.
“I would say over there they focus more on skill level instead of athleticism,” Darko-Kelly admitted. “They’re very good at playing basketball, know how to play [and] they’re good at filling roles.”
The cultural diversity of the team and the league were noteworthy as well fielding players from the G-League, Finland’s national team and even a Ukrainian player which helped Darko-Kelly learn different backgrounds while also learning a new style of playing.
With Darko-Kelly unmistakably proving to teams that he can play professionally overseas at a high level, his future could see him returning to Helsinki for one more year or moving to greener pastures.
“I signed a two-year deal with them so I have the option to come back. My agent just kind of wants to see if any teams are interested so I’ll probably know around August if I’m going back to Helsinki or somewhere else," he said.
For now, the 6-foot-7 Great Falls native is training in the gym everyday in his hometown as well as in Las Vegas to prepare for his next move, but Darko-Kelly isn’t thinking too far ahead and not taking life too seriously, because at the of the day, he’s just grateful for the opportunity.
“I’m so grateful I get to do this for a living so at the end of the day it’s just basketball," he said.