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When a contract offer came from Ukrainian professional basketball team MBC Mykolaiv in late summer, David Downs moved half the world away to follow his dream.
“I had great experiences at home,” David says, “but I wanted to do something different.”
His professional pedigree became evident in college, where he twice led Seattle Pacific University in overall scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game over four years.
It took him a while to settle into Mykolaiv, a major shipbuilding center on the Black Sea coast, and a blue-collar town that supported its basketball team in droves.
“We had probably the best fan base in the league,” David says.
The Ukrainian Superleague — now, unfortunately, out of operation — was about as competitive as a first year player can get. While playing with the team, the former SPU point guard led the team with 14 points per game despite an ongoing adjustment period.
“It’s such a different style of basketball,” David says. “For a first-year player in Ukraine, I was doing pretty well.”
The most difficult adjustment? A brutal travel schedule. Ukrainian highways are in disrepair, and trains run slowly.
He recounted one two-game, 1,250-mile trip from earlier this season: It took 17 hours on the train to get to Hoverla, near the Romanian border, followed by a five-hour bus ride to Galichina, near the Polish border. Another 15 hours capped the journey, in which Mykolaiv won both games.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine didn’t make David worry about his personal safety, because Mykolaiv sits over 300 miles from much of the instability. But as the conflict wore down the economy, the Ukrainian Superleague was forced into a hiatus at the end of 2014. David returned home to Seattle for two weeks, and then another offer came from the Rhine Stars in Cologne, Germany. David chose to accept and flew to Germany on Monday, January 10, ready for a new adventure.
“It’s been really cool to go outside of my shell and experience something so different.”