Atiba Lyons: Sheffield Sharks’ head coach aiming high with new BBL recruits

Sheffield Sharks’ head coach Atiba Lyons has high hopes for the newest additions to the team’s roster ahead of the 2021/22 season.

By Steve Jones
Monday, 16th August 2021, 11:22 am

Lyons has targeted recruits who can bring height and athleticism to his side after identifying those areas as in need of improvement following last season’s fifth-placed finish in the British Basketball League (BBL).

First through the door was 6ft 8in power forward Marcus Delpeche, who joins 6ft 7in captain Mike Tuck and 6ft 5in guard Jordan Ratinho already in the building.

At 5ft 10ins, the team’s other new recruit, 29-year-old American point guard Aaron Anderson, is minuscule but will be expected to drive them forward with his experience and pedigree, having previously played overseas in Australia and France – two countries with strong domestic leagues.

Sheffield Sharks head coach Atiba Lyons. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

"We definitely need to get more physical and more athletic,” Lyons told The Star.

"Those are two key areas. What we had last season was a lot of talent but sometimes we lacked a little bit of athleticism around the court or in transitions.

"We have a lot of depth. In recent years teams like London and Leicester are playing almost ten or 11 guys deep. For us to be able to play consistently and have a shot at silverware, you have to weather the season.”

A further three new faces will be unveiled before the first tip-off of the season against Cheshire Phoenix on 24 September at Ponds Forge, Lyons said.

Ecclesfield-born Nate Montgomery – a lifelong Sharks fan – will also return next season for a third year along with 6ft 10in forward Oscar Baldwin from Grindleford, Hope Valley.

Those players who have moved on include Antwon Lillard, Jeremy Hemsley, Nick Lewis and Callum Jones, while the future of Doncaster native Rob Marsden remains unclear.

"I’m really happy with this off season,” Lyons added.

"Every style of play I wanted to get for the upcoming season I was able to get with the guys we have signed.

"Last year was a little bit disjointed because we signed guys then made changes. This year I feel we were able to right those wrongs.”

The first two arrivals ahead of the 2021/22 season, Anderson and Delpeche, took little persuading to join up with Sheffield despite having options elsewhere, Lyons revealed.

"Marcus was highly motivated to come, he liked the idea of playing in Sheffield which always makes it easier for me because it makes that partnership easier.

"Aaron has been around a few years, being a little older than other guys, so he wanted a more secure situation rather than be messed about.”

One man who took no persuading to sign on for another year was veteran Tuck, now 38, who is set for his thirteenth season in the BBL, the top division of basketball in the UK.

On the decision to reward him with another deal, Lyons said: “Mike has a strong passion and desire to play. He works hard still, so from that standpoint it was easy to want to have Mike back around because he leads by example.

"From a larger picture, with having that year with Covid and no fans, it would be unfortunate if that’s how he went out. If it’s his final year that’s what the club wants for him [to play in front of fans].”