At the beginning of the season there would have been long odds that home-grown Sheffield Sharks player Locka Okorie would have such a prominent role in the team.
However, fast-forward six and a half months and Okorie, aged 27, is a key starter and often gets given the toughest defensive assignments by coach Peter Scantlebury.
And now with the Sharks preparing to take on Newcastle Eagles tomorrow in the BBL play-off semi-finals, Okorie will get the chance to demonstrate how far he has come this season against an opponent whose fans have mocked him in the past.
On the opening night of the season Eagles supporters encouraged Sharks players to pass him the ball in the perceived knowledge that he was Sheffield’s weakest link.
Since that match he has grown in stature and was handed a starting role by Scantlebury.
Scantlebury said: “Locka has had a very good year. He has accepted his role defensively, but there have been occasions where he has scored valuable points.”
Despite a cabinet full of medals, Okorie has been very much a fringe player since joining the Sharks straight from college in 1998. It would be unfair to say he hasn’t earned his silverware but there is no doubt that he has been a valuable player this season.
“It has been a welcome surprise his development,” said Scantlebury. “I’d say Locka and Eddie Cage have given me the biggest unexpected boost with their performances.
“Jeff Bonds and Blake Shelton get all the plaudits - and rightly so - but Locka has given me something I didn’t expect.”
A Sharks win tomorrow will see them play Guildford Heat or Scottish Rocks on Sunday in the final.