The Darris Diaries

Darris Nichols updates us on his season in Hungary, offers some words of wisdom for WVU fans and relays a crazy experience from a hostile road environment like no other.

The last couple of games I have been playing major minutes. Prior to that my minutes went down and so did my scoring because I was battling through an injury. I had tendinitis in my left knee that was limiting my practice and playing time, but in the last few games my minutes and scoring have gone up because I'm back to 100 percent. I am also understanding how to use ball screens better and better every game which is all the pro game consists of overseas and in the NBA.

Last week was my best game so far this year against Falco, scoring 23 points on 9-11 shooting. Falco has one of the best Hungarian point guards (Laszlo Kalman) so I was matched up against him. He is like the Hungarian Steve Nash, running around a lot and getting a lot of calls.

The biggest adjustment on the court I have had to make is on defense. The defensive principles are very different here in Europe. The hardest thing right now is guarding the Europeans. When it comes to guarding the Americans I am OK but the Europeans' games are so different. They read screens really well and know how to use angles. A lot like Ted Talkington...ha ha!

Oh man, I'm so excited to get to go home. This is the longest break I will ever have had. Two weeks is more than I had combined my whole time at West Virginia for Christmas. I have been gone since August, but it puts my life into perspective when we have guys in the military who are fighting for their life and don't get to see their families, and their families worry about them non-stop. I am blessed that I can do what I love to do and make money at it when a lot of people back home are faced with layoffs every day. I still plan on catching a West Virginia game over the break. Got to support my boys.

I have been able to watch pretty much all of the games this year. I had to pay for the Davidson game, though, but it was worth it. One thing I can say is they did not lose that game because of effort. I have also been reading the message boards and it's painful to see some fans (not all) lose faith so fast in a team. Many people argue that the team is not that young but it is also difficult when you have guys put into new roles that they have not been in since high school. The free throw issue, trust me knowing Huggs he has addressed it but free throws are one of those things you can overemphasize. Not saying they are not important, but when you are constantly reminded that you are a bad free throw shooting team then it becomes even more mental.

Speaking to Mountaineer fans: We have lost two games but I don't think it is as bad as people are making it. Yes, any loss is bad, but at the end of the year no matter what, Kentucky is always in the tournament so that loss doesn't hurt as much as it might. And Davidson will win the Southern Conference, so that loss won't hurt too much either. But wins would have helped.

We lost a game to a team called Szolnok at their place, but we are still tied for first place. The game there was my first encounter with a hostile European crowd. It was also the first time I can actually say the refs cheated us. You hear many people saying, "We lost the game because of the refs" but this was ridiculous.

I knew it was going to be bad from the start when 30 rolls of toilet paper came flying across the gym and confetti was thrown on the court during the introduction of the starting lineups. During the second half a foul was called that the fans did not like. In Europe they have glass behind the bench protecting the players. The fans punched and kicked holes through the glass (more like fiberglass) and then threw it on the court. I was dribbling up the court and a broomstick went flying by me. They threw a bunch of coins on the court, too.

During the fourth quarter there was a few key possessions where the refs called it our ball. The other team quickly took the ball out of bounds and inbounded it, and the refs did not stop the game. The reason why this happened is because the Hungarian refs are on strike in some gyms due to security reason so we were using second division refs who are terrified of the fans.

After the loss we headed to our bus which was surrounded by at least one thousand screaming fans. I can look back on this and laugh now but it was an experience I won't forget. I thought playing at Pitt was hard.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Keep Coach Billy Hahn's wife in your prayers. God bless.

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