Sheffield Sharks player-coach Atiba Lyons believes Mike Cook will lead their side to the BBL Cup on Sunday – and back into the elite of British basketball.
The league leaders, now chasing a potential treble after their Trophy exit, have been powered by the omnipotent American this term with his 27 points per holding centre-stage in their resurgence.
Lyons admits Cheshire are likely to target the former Pittsburgh standout for special attention. But so far, he says, Cook has overcome everything thrown in his path.
“He’s surprised me,” Lyons admits. “It’s his first trip overseas, he’s getting acclimatised to being away from home but still being in an English-speaking country. But he’s got a good support group around him. And he’s doing well. He plays hard for us. The guys like him and he likes them.
“The first year can always be iffy. You can get homesick. The style of play is a lot more physical than back home. He’s been able to adjust on the fly,”
With the Sharks sweeping the season series with the Jets in the league, Lyons concedes his team will take the favourites tag to Birmingham.
Yet, given the unexpected revival of Paul Smith’s veteran line-up, the year’s first piece of silverware remains up for grabs.
“Every time they’ve played us, they’ve had a different line-up,” the second-year playcaller declared. “But they’ve made some changes so it’s going to be a tough game.”