Former Runnin’ Ute Parker Van Dyke getting accustomed to playing professional basketball overseas
Having played in Estonia last winter and spring, former East High star is hoping to turn some heads at the Powder League in Draper this summer and earn an invitation to the NBA Summer League.
Former University of Utah standout Parker Van Dyke doesn’t have any “horror stories” after playing a couple of professional basketball games in Mexico in 2020 and nearly a full season last winter in Estonia, but it wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows and butterflies, either, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have heard many of those stories about not getting paid and all that,” Van Dyke said last week after scoring 36 points in a Powder League summer pro-am game in Draper. “Luckily, I got paid and everything, and on time. The only thing that was tough this past year was COVID.”
The Deseret News caught up with the former East High star last month, a few weeks after he returned to his hometown of Salt Lake City after a successful season with a professional club in the capital city of Estonia, Tallinn.
Van Dyke started his pro career with the Tijuana Zonkeys of the CIBACOPA league in March of 2020, but after three games, the league shut down due to the pandemic and never started up again. The 6-foot-3 Van Dyke was averaging 13.7 points, 2.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds and had scored a career-high 18 points before the league halted operations a day or two after the NBA did.
“That was rough,” he said.
“It was tough for me to see the old coaching staff go, because it was an era that I was a part of. I love those guys. I developed such strong relationships with them all over time. But I have met the new staff and I like them a lot. They’ve got great energy. As a Utah fan I am excited for the future.” — Former Utah basketball star Parker Van Dyke
Last November, Van Dyke’s agent lined him up to play in Estonia, a country in northern Europe, and he started playing there in December.
“It went well,” he said. “It was a little bit of a tough learning curve, adjusting to pro ball, but also adjusting to COVID. We had no fans. Our league got shut down a couple of times, but it was my first time in Europe, and it was good to get over there and get my feet wet.”
Van Dyke averaged around 15 points a game and led his team in minutes played.
“It was a good experience overall,” he said. “No regrets. It took some adjusting. It is a different game than American college basketball. But by the end of the season, I felt like I was playing my best basketball, and that was the goal.”
Van Dyke isn’t sure yet whether he will go back to Estonia, or catch on with another European team.
“It is a beautiful city, Tallinn,” he said. “It was a really good place to live. You gotta get over there, make a name for yourself, just like any other profession. Hopefully I did. … Now my goal is to make my way west — Germany, Italy, Spain.”
His team “did all right,” but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“That was another thing; I played for, like, three different head coaches, and we had a bunch of different teammates. So there was not a lot of consistency, but I played well and at least we were competitive.”
Van Dyke said living alone in a foreign country wasn’t easy, but he got used to it.
“I was not married,” he said. “I have a serious girlfriend, but she couldn’t make the trip over because of COVID. Hopefully next time around I am married and she can come with me.”
Of course, his ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. But he’s not holding his breath, having gone undrafted in 2019. For now, he’s hoping he shows something in the 12-team Powder League — play goes through the middle of August — that catches the eye of an NBA club.
“I would love to play in the NBA Summer League,” he said. “That’s the current goal. And then go somewhere back to Europe.”
He said he has had a little bit of communication with the Utah Jazz, “and that would be a dream come true, to play for the Jazz, growing up a Jazz fan. But playing or anyone, just getting an opportunity to go out there and have a little bit of an NBA experience is something I have always wanted.”
Van Dyke looks back on his college career at Utah with fondness. He grew up cheering for the University of Utah, so donning the crimson red was a dream come true. Of course, he will never forget the buzzer-beating 3-pointer he hit to beat UCLA, or the way he finished out his senior season when he emerged as one of the best players on the team.
“Another thing, people forget my junior year,” he said. “We want all the way to the NIT championship game and played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That was awesome. That game has an NCAA Tournament-like feel to it, and to play in the greatest arena in the world was unforgettable.”
Van Dyke said he was saddened to see his former coach, Larry Krystkowiak, and the rest of the staff fired on March 16.
“It was tough for me to see the old coaching staff go, because it was an era that I was a part of,” he said. “I love those guys. I developed such strong relationships with them all over time. But I have met the new staff and I like them a lot. They’ve got great energy. As a Utah fan I am excited for the future.”
The program’s future, and his own, especially now that the pandemic seems to be winding down.