‘Majority’ of Sheffield Sharks players vaccinated but overall BBL uptake could be much lower
Atiba Lyons insists the best is yet to come from the Sheffield Sharks' class of 2021/22 and hopes the coronavirus pandemic won't halt their progress.
Sheffield are second in the British Basketball League (BBL) table after seven matches, having won five of those games, but saw their last fixture against London Lions fall victim to the fresh wave of Covid-19 cases wreaking havoc with the UK’s sporting calendar.
Their next match away to fifth-placed Glasgow Rocks is set to go ahead on 29 December, barring any coronavirus-related hiccups before then, though new rules in Scotland to deal with the Omicron variant mean only 500 supporters can attend .
Head coach Lyons said: "I don’t think we have played our best basketball yet by a long stretch, but we have still been able to win games.
"There’s a lot of room still to grow.”
Lyons said the Sharks have fared ‘pretty good’ as far as Covid outbreaks within their camp are concerned.
“We have been pretty fortunate, we have had some cases in the past but it ended up working out where the guys were already away from the team.”
‘The majority’ of players on Sheffield’s roster are also vaccinated, Lyons added.
“I’m not 100 per cent on everyone’s position right now because coming from America there’s different protocol, but I’m pretty sure most guys are vaccinated.
"There’s one or two that aren’t aren’t opposed to it, they just haven’t done it yet.
"I don’t feel it’s something to force on anybody but ultimately that seems to be how it’s going.”
NBA star Kyrie Irving, who has refused the vaccine, is forbidden from representing The Brooklyn Nets in their home games or some away games because rules in New York and other states require athletes to be vaccinated.
England’s Elite Ice Hockey League requires all players to be fully vaccinated but this rule has not been introduced in the BBL or other domestic leagues.
On the vaccination uptake across the top tier of basketball in the UK, Lyons said: “From what I know and hear – it’s not any hard numbers – I think it’s probably similar to the general population.
"There’s always one or two who are still maybe a little bit cautious. It replicates what’s going on everywhere else.”
More than 80 per cent – over 47 million people – of over-12s in the UK have had both doses, while more than 25 million booster doses have also been administered.
Sharks captain Mike Tuck estimated the number of vaccinated BBL players was closer to half of the total participants, however.
He said: “Talking to guys around the league and locker room it seems pretty much 50/50.
"It’s a personal choice. We do testing every week, PCR tests and that’s how the league’s monitoring it right now. I don’t know what it will be like moving forward.”
Asked if he felt the BBL schedule should continue, Lyons said: “I would love to see it continue on just because there’s so many safety protocols in place.
"It’s not something we can’t adjust to again (playing behind closed doors).
"When things start getting like this we need a bit of a healthy distraction for people and that’s what sport provides. I would like to see it continue in whatever capacity.”