The successful career of Darris Nichols now has a new destination.
The former WVU point guard informed BlueGoldNews.com that he has inked a deal with Atomeromu SE Paks of the Hungarian League’s A Division. Nichols, West Virginia’s all-time leader in games played, came to terms with the club on Thursday after sifting through a plethora of offers from clubs throughout Europe.
“They had watched a few of my game tapes and said I was their number one target,” Nichols said by phone on Friday evening. “The coach (Balazs Sabali) pretty much told me that if I came, it was my team. From looking at my tapes, they think I can be an all-league guy in Hungary.”
Nichols will head to Hungary next week for a physical and to begin training with his new club. And while his main purpose for being overseas will obviously be basketball, the time between his arrival and the beginning of the season in early October will be an orientation of sorts for the Radford, Va. native, who admittedly is not all that acquainted with his new surroundings.
“Not at all,” Nichols said with a laugh. “I’ve been Googling it. (Nichols’ former WVU teammate and roommate) Rob Summers is playing in Austria, which is a border country. So, he’s kind of close but it’s still like three hours away. They speak Hungarian. It’s a little bit similar to German I think. I have three other Americans on my team, so I should OK.”
Following West Virginia’s Sweet 16 loss to Xavier, Nichols spent roughly a month working out at the IMG training complex in Bradenton, Fla. Though he did go through a pre-draft workout for the Washington Wizards, Nichols noted that he realistically did not expect a job opportunity to materialize from the workout.
What it did provide, however, was an opportunity to be seen by NBA coaches and front office officials, who gave Nichols some useful evaluation regarding his performance and chances at playing professionally both at home and abroad.
“I thought it went well but they didn’t need a guard,” he said. “They definitely gave me good feedback. They said I could have played in the D-League this year and that I’ll definitely be a good player overseas.”
Nichols also received a fair amount of help from WVU head coach Bob Huggins, who coached him for his final season in Morgantown.
“He definitely helped me out,” Nichols said. “I had a few teams looking at me and he would let me know that anything he could do he would. He met and talked to some coaches. He had my back 100 percent.”
While the league in Hungary that Nichols is joining will never be confused with the NBA, it is certainly a great spot for him to begin what one hopes will be a lengthy professional career. As far as European leagues go, the ACB in Spain as well as Greece’s A1 Ethniki would top most lists while the Hungarian League falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.
In Hungary, though, Nichols has an opportunity to play and be a big contributor immediately, which is something that likely would not have happened had he inked a deal in one of Europe’s bigger leagues. The more experience he can gain at the pro level, the more attractive he will be to other leagues and teams as he continues his career.
“That’s the thing about this,” Nichols explained, “is it’s a process, you know? The teams (in the U.S.) that have shown interest in me have said that they will be keeping tabs on me, and hopefully they can invite me back over for summer league or a chance to play back in the states. Taking this job will definitely help me in the long run because I’ll get to play early and often.
“It means that I’ll play a big part in whether or not we’ll do good or do bad,” he continued. “If we win the game, it’ll be on my shoulders. If we lose it’ll be on my shoulders. So, I’ll have a lot of weight on my shoulders, but that’s something that I’m used to. It won’t bother me at all.”
Among the perks that Nichols will receive as part of his agreement with Atomeromu SE Paks are a one-bedroom apartment with high-speed internet access and use of a vehicle. The biggest perk, however, is that Nichols’s professional career will have a solid base from which to launch from. Ultimately, he said, his long-term objective is still to play in the NBA.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “A lot of people end up overseas and look at it as a burden but I can’t really look at it like that because I’m still playing. I’m just trying to do the best I can over there and see where it takes me.”