Thanks, Faith, Patience, & Work
After not getting much exposure in high school or college and being cut by his first professional team, not many people would have foreseen Tremmell Darden Sr. having a 13-year career playing at the highest level in Europe. While playing for such prestigious clubs as Real Madrid and Olympiacos, Darden Sr. shares his basketball journey and how his strong faith has been the secret to the longevity of his career.
When love is the motivation, success is the destination. You have to Love whatever it is you do or commit to in order to reach any level of success; the game of basketball is no different… no love, no sustained success.
With that being said, my name is Tremmell Darden Sr, current player of Pallacanesto Cantú by the grace of God in year 13!
My journey has been different from most, to say the least. No PT on the freshman team, no AAU ball growing up, and no shine in high school until senior year. However, God’s plan will triumph for each of us if we are Thankful, Faithful, Patient, and work hard! These traits have always fueled me, driving my desire to be the best that I can be and, through hard work, reach my highest possible level.
A commendable senior year at Las Vegas High created a continued opportunity at Niagara University and eventually a career all over the globe in basketball! Unaware of the draft process in its entirety, I failed to complete any of the pre-draft proceedings. Unfortunately, my representatives at the time neglected to put forth any effort in getting me NBA informed or ready, presenting European basketball as the only option. Having the right representation is extremely important in the basketball realm. The individuals we choose to represent us can make all the difference in regards to the opportunities we are afforded!
Turkey was my first destination, I played my rookie year for a team named Erdemir in the 1st division, but only after I was cut by Besiktas on a 1 and a half day tryout fresh off a 17-hour flight. While this was not how I thought things would begin, God always has a plan that’s going to end for our good if we do our part the right way. My first season was a good one as far as the team was concerned, finishing 1 game out of the playoffs. I was fortunate enough to play with a veteran PG and he made things easier for me on and off the court which allowed for a good rookie year! Especially living in a small city w/o transportation and minimal entertainment. My first season of professional basketball taught me several things: 1.) I did not want to play only once a week, 2.) I needed someone overseas with me, and 3.) I needed to be patient in learning the game in Europe because it’s taught and played differently than we learn in America.
Next, I was off to Belgium to play for the Leuven Bears who, thankfully, were playing in multiple European competitions. However, my participation in the midweek games was cut short due to a stress fracture in my left foot. Although I didn’t get to play, I got to travel and get a taste of the various levels of play here in Europe. My eyes were getting opened to different country’s style of play and higher levels of competition. Season two I also brought a friend over to visit, this visit turned into a lifelong friendship that blossomed into a wonderful marriage! Those were the brightest moments during that season since we did not have a successful season. Thankfully, my Lord Jesus allowed me to play well enough to move on to Charleroi, Belgium, the biggest team in the league at the time for both my third and fourth seasons.
The first season in Charleroi was one of the most fun seasons because we had so many veteran players and I was the young fella soaking up all the knowledge. Listening and learning while on the job made it fun to be a part of. Great friends were made during our tenure there, not to mention the birth of my first son. My second season in Charleroi provided my first European championship and I had a great showing in both the domestic league and my first year playing EuroCup.
From there is was on to Australia to play for the great Brian Goorjian who would take my game to the next level!! He was the coach I needed to be the best player I could be! God knew that and He sent me down under to learn not only what a winning mentality & championship work looks like, but also how to grow stronger mentally under coach Goorjian’s stewardship. We were the Melbourne South Dragons and we had a squad and we did work down there!! Champions of the league and by God’s grace I had an explosion in game 5 of the finals scoring 31 (21 in the 3rd) without playing the remaining 10:30 of the game. It was an amazing ending to a great season. One full of growth and no growth comes w/o difficulty, but once you learn and grow, you love what you went through to become a better person! That’s how Father God works things out, growth doesn’t come w/o character developing trials! Australia is so nice, we would love to get a place there if it was possible!
From there it was back to Europe, heading to France to play in Strasbourg. My second son was born there… that’s a highlight, but we underachieved as a team so from a basketball perspective it wasn’t all good. I was able to learn from another great vet, though. Also, I started to learn that everyone doesn’t have a burning desire to be their best in this game and winning takes a wholehearted effort by everyone, striving to be and give your best every day to reach your highest potential! My faith would be tested at the highest level that season in Strasbourg and all my talking and confession would be on full display during this trial! I nearly lost my wife after my son was born leaving her in the hospital for a month. I learned that faith had to be tested in order to grow and being a house mom is serious work!! I’m Thankful and Grateful for that season of testing because it showed me how real The Holy Trinity is and how we are rewarded for standing strong in Him!
Nancy was the next stop and this was the make or break year for me. Either we were going to get to elite European level after this season or not. He did it again, allowing me to play at such a high level that we won the French league championship with me as the leader of that team. One breakout season is always required in order to get to the next level over here. Having a coach that gives you the keys is the start, whether you take advantage of the opportunity is up to you!! Great group of guys I had the pleasure to play with and we enjoyed a fun season together! The greatest defender I have ever seen was the PG on that team it was amazing to see! They called him le virus in France, you can look him up!! Champions of the French league would give my family our third league title in 4 years!
Moving on to what is, or was, considered the “big league” in Europe (the Spanish ACB League) for domestic play and Euroleague for European competition!
Malaga, Spain was such a great place to live and play and we loved ever bit of our time there and all that came with it. The season got off to a great start both for the team and individually, but several injuries slowed us down. I suffered a broken my thumb that needed surgery, leaving me out 8-10 weeks. After returning for a few weeks, I broke the same thumb in a different spot leaving me sidelined for another 3 weeks. It was a tough situation for me because it was the first time going under the knife in my career. Malaga’s incredible organization and great staff were really good to the family and I through it all. We hoped to be there for multiple seasons, but that was our plan, not God’s!
Year nine took us to basketball land… Lithuania, to play for the pride of Kaunas, Zalgiris! It was awesome to play in a country where basketball was the first sport and where the people are very passionate about ball! Zalgiris is the main attraction and all the eyes of the country are on the team. It was a good thing that we had a great group of guys who took the game seriously, it helped that we play amazing basketball that season. I got to shine in my role on the team because the coach trusted me. No matter what level or system you play in, the more trust the coach has in a player the better that guy plays. I experienced my first encounter with a team having financial problems in Zalgiris. Although the players didn’t receive payments, I was more concerned with the individuals who trusted their savings to the bank that our president owned. These individuals were unable to access their funds and many people’s lives were on hold for a couple weeks add they were unable to access their money until the financial institutions came up with a solution to aid while the final outcome was determined. By the grace of God, the failing institution was bought by another bank and things slowly improved for everyone affected. As finances were limited with the team, adjustments had to be made and God opened a door for us that we didn’t see happening at that time. Real Madrid became interested in my services and I ended up going to play for them March of that 2013 season. It was good for Zalgiris because they needed to cut some costs with the financial shake up and I always wanted to play for Real Madrid so the split was ideal for both. The support of my family and I while in Lithuania was such a great experience and we are very Thankful to have had that chance to play there!
Attaining a goal is always fulfilling, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be ups and downs were learning and growing is still going to happen. I learned that once I started playing for Real Madrid. It was my first time coming to a team during the season and the initial adjustments were harder than I thought. Mainly because I was going to a team that was already good and I didn’t want to mess anything up. We lost three of the four ACB league games I participated in and I was wondering what I did to mess up this great organization. Because I came so late in the season, I wasn’t able to play Euroleague, management, and staff reassured me that after Euroleague finished I would be able to fit in with what the team was doing well. We went to the Euroleague final that season and came up short. It was still amazing to be with such a great organization and players watching from the sideline seeing where I could contribute once the focus turned towards ACB success. Upset about how things ended in Euroleague the team’s focus turned to winning the ACB title. Here is where I would get to earn my place on this team. By God’s grace, I had some big playoff games really contributing to the team at important times! For example, 11 points in the final 2 minutes of the 2nd quarter with us down 13 to close the quarter and give us momentum going into halftime. We got the dub and moved on to the final! It was El Clásico time the great Real Madrid vs Barcelona for a trophy as the end result of the series! And a classic it was throughout with us ending up victorious in game 5 winning the league title!! It was Real Madrid’s first league title since 07 and it felt good to see the vindication on the faces of some of my teammates and staff members. Finishing the season with a title gave us a lot of confidence heading into the next season!
Real Madrid is a top notch organization in every aspect. The global recognition of the team makes them the number one sports franchise in the world and playing for them is an experience like no other! Returning for the ’13-’14 season we had a lot of confidence and set our goals at winning every title possible. Starting out winning 32 straight games was evidence of that confidence. It was an amazing experience playing with such a dominant team and contributing where needed. The most important thing to know when playing for a big team with high expectations is to have an impact on the game while you are in. Do whatever is needed to have a positive impact while you’re on the court. Bringing energy, effort, defense, rebounds, scoring if needed. Whatever impact you can have in that game is what you need to do. And always step up in the games that are most important! Having a great attitude, understanding your role and executing it willingly and happily is what will give you the consistency needed to contribute to the team and be appreciated for what you bring to the team. That’s the approach I carried with me everyday to practice and games while playing for Real Madrid and later Olympiacos. We had such a great run this season but it ended in heartbreak losing the Euroleague final in overtime and losing the Spanish league title as well. Giving your all to a goal takes something out of a team when you fall short and that’s what happened to us after losing the Euroleague final. Unlike the NBA we have multiple things we are competing for during the season each requiring your full effort to win and losing takes something out of you, but we have to move on and compete for the next title until the season is completed. No layoff or off season until we’re done in June. We went 2/4 on titles that season losing the most important two. Still, it was something special to be a part of! It will go down as a fun, entertaining season for many involved and watching. I’m still a huge fan of the team because of my relationship with guys on the team and the coaches & staff. It was a privilege to play with and for such a great group of people and legends in the making! Our year and a half in Madrid is probably the place we would call our second home because we made some great friends there both on and off the court, plus the quality of life in Madrid fit us very well!
Our next place of employment would be in Piraeus, Greece for Olympiacos! Another team with high expectations for both domestic and Euroleague competition! Different style of play from the previous season, but in order to have high-level success and longevity in life you have to be able to make adjustments and bring your best for whatever is needed! Adjustments would have to be made immediately due to a broken hand I suffered during pre-season or friendly games as they are called here in Europe. It was unfortunate because I ended up only playing for the coach who brought me in for two pre-season games because of the injury. I didn’t understand the severity of the Greek classic at the time, but I would learn soon. No rivalry or derby is as serious as the Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos in my opinion. People lose jobs and endure physical harm because of the results of the game. As a competitor, it’s something you want to be a part of and put your own imprint on the legendary rivalry and by God’s grace and favor I was fortunate enough to do just that in every match against our rivals ending in a Greek league title! Before winning the Greek league we had a trip to the Euroleague final against my previous team Real Madrid but came up short once again. God allowed me to be a part of 3 Euroleague finals in 4 seasons of playing at that level and losing was difficult, but I’m Thankful for the experience no matter what! I got to play with a current legend in Olympiacos and we have great friendships made in Athens! The guys on the team made this a cool season for all involved. Salute to Gate 7!
Turkey had grown a lot since I last played there and that would be our next destination for season 12. This would prove to be a season of growth in many areas. Mainly in my leadership ability both on and off the court. We definitely underachieved based on our talent and potential and that messed up what could have been something special based on the support of the organization. Istanbul was a lovely place to live, though. It’s very westernized with its food, shopping malls, and entertainment! There was always some good food to eat and things to do. But the traffic is no joke! Thankfully we stayed close to where most things were. Even though there had been terror attacks we never felt in danger, just listened closely when an alert went out for places to stay away from. It was a great experience and the level of Turkish basketball has increased and is very competitive!
Season 13 is currently in progress and how things will pan out is still TBD! We are currently fighting to get into the Italian cup finishing the 1st round in the top eight. Two games left and winning out is a must to qualify!
When your knowledge and wisdom of the game become instinct and you have the ability, add a strong work ethic and discipline and your opportunity will come and you will shine during that time!
To have longevity in this game of life and basketball, especially overseas, you have to be 1.) Thankful for all that you have while going through your ups and downs, 2.) Faithful to what God says in His word concerning you and what you believe, 3.) Patient because the process is long and difficult and you want to deal with it having the right attitude and, 4.) Work hard give your all to be your best mentally and physically!! These things help develop a mental toughness that can keep you at peace during the long season overseas!
As for me, my peace and mental toughness comes from my relationship w/God the Father through Christ Jesus! The self-control the Bible requires of us translates to the basketball court because we are to control our emotions not let them control us and the Bible tells us to do just that and hold ourselves accountable in how we think, speak, and act at all times! Had it not been for a wholehearted commitment to growing in Him, I don’t think I would have had the opportunities and doors opened that have allowed me to play at a high level and still be productive today!
Thank you to everyone who will read this long entry and Lord willing it will help impact someone and help them in their quest to continue to play the game of basketball for a living!success is the destination. You have to Love whatever it is you do or commit to in order to reach any level of success; the game of basketball is no different… no love, no sustained success.