'It's what I've been dreaming about' Darling says of NBA debut

·3 min read
Nate Darling passes the ball during his NBA debut against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. (Jacob Kupferman/The Associated Press - image credit)
Nate Darling passes the ball during his NBA debut against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. (Jacob Kupferman/The Associated Press - image credit)

It was only four minutes of playing time and he missed his one shot attempt, but Charlotte Hornets guard Nate Darling said it was a thrill of a lifetime on Saturday night to become the first player from Nova Scotia to play in an NBA regular season game.

"It's what I've been dreaming about as a kid my whole life," said Darling, a Bedford native who is still getting congratulatory messages from friends back in Nova Scotia. "But I also know I'm at the bottom of the NBA totem pole right now so I have to keep climbing."

Darling's NBA debut is the result of a very long and winding pursuit.

The basketball phenom left his family and home province when he was 15. He played his high school basketball at DeMatha Catholic High School, one of the top U.S. prep schools.

"It was definitely a culture shock coming from Nova Scotia to an all-boys Catholic school in Maryland," said Darling. "But I think that was the most important step of my journey."

After three years at the school, located just outside Washington, D.C., Darling played two seasons at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, an experience that didn't pan out. He decided it would be best if he transferred to another school.

"I always believed in myself that I could play at the NBA level and I didn't see that happening in the system UAB was using me in," said Darling. "So I bet on myself and decided I would go somewhere else and show everybody I had what it takes to be an NBA player."

Nate Darling says his decision to sit out a year and then go to the University of Delaware was 'the right call.'
Nate Darling says his decision to sit out a year and then go to the University of Delaware was 'the right call.'(Corey Sipkin/The Associated Press)

Darling admits that was a tough decision but in hindsight it was "the right call."

Because he was transferring schools, he had to sit out the entire 2018-19 season.

But then he had a breakout year at the University of Delaware where he averaged 21 points per game and was one of the top three-point shooters in the country. At the end of his only season with Delaware he entered the NBA draft, but he was not selected.

Charlotte contacted him to say they were signing him.

"I actually got the call from them the night of the draft," said Darling, who says not being drafted turned out to be a blessing in disguise. "Then you have the choice of where you can go and what team might be the best fit for your skills."

The six-feet-five-inch player specializes in three-pointers. He spent the first few weeks of the NBA season hoping to get some game action, but then Darling was sent down to play in the NBA G League.

Playing in a minor league bubble in Florida, Darling played 13 games for the Greensboro Swarm and was recalled back to Charlotte when the G League season ended.

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