Sharks forward Olu Babalola has paid tribute to the club’s coaching and management as he re-signs for another season in Sheffield.
As The Star exclusively revealed yesterday, 30-year-old Babalola is player-coach Atiba Lyons’s first signing of the summer.
And the 6ft 6in Londoner, who can play either at small or power forward, says the reason he is returning is due to Lyons and Sharks director Sarah Backovic.
He said: “I’m coming back to Sheffield for basketball reasons. What the Sharks offer me as a player is ideal for this stage of my career. Atiba and Sarah have been great.
“Atiba is good at finding out what you’re best at and then making you do that. He wants me to be a leader on this season’s team and share my experience with the rest of the squad.
“That is something that I really want to do. It was hard last year because I joined halfway through the season but I’m in from the start this time and I’m really excited about what Atiba has told me about who else is coming.”
Babalola has vast BBL experience having been a vital part of trophy winning teams with Newcastle Eagles and Everton Tigers.
Newcastle were interested in taking him back to the north-east and there was also the possibility of exploring his options with a European team, but once Sharks confirmed their intentions Babalola’s mind was made up.
“I heard through my agent that Newcastle could be looking and I didn’t want to hold out for Europe. Atiba spoke to me after the play-off final and said he wanted me back.”
Lyons, who is home in the United States, said: “This is a really great start for me to have Olu back on board, he not only is a talent on the court, but a great ambassador off the court.
“Olu brings a great deal of composure to the team, and can step up enormously when we need him to. I feel being with us from the start of the season will be a great asset as he can establish his influence from the go.”
Babalola will be at the EIS in Sheffield today in support of South Yorkshire Housing Associations RESPECT project – supporting communities by encouraging young people to stay in sport.