Mike Tuck, captain of vanquished Sheffield Sharks, hopes his side’s part in a thrilling BBL Trophy final with Leicester Riders will help maintain the momentum in basketball’s quest for a bigger role in British sport.
Sharks were beaten 90-85 by Leicester Riders in Glasgow, having rallied from 17 points behind at one stage to come within the width of the rim of taking the lead in the final minute.
The dramatic game came at a time when basketball is as high on the sporting agenda as it has ever been, with large participation figures in disadvantaged areas offset by the imminent cutting of funding to Britain’s elite teams.
The issue will be discussed at an emergency summit in Parliament this week, and Tuck hopes Sunday’s game will give a timely reminder to the authorities about what impact the sport can have.
“It was a fantastic advert for basketball,” said Canadian-born forward Tuck.
“The messages I have received from fans, not just of the Sharks but around the league and around the country have been encouraging about how good the game was.
There’s a huge basketball narrative in Britain right now that is not just affecting leagues like the BBL, but also the game in local communities.Sheffield Sharks’ Mike Tuck
“The air time that the BBC and FreeSports have given it since hopping on board is a great catalyst to help the conversation and it was great that we were able to play a small part in it.
“There’s a huge basketball narrative in Britain right now that is not just affecting leagues like the BBL, but also the game in local communities.
“People with influence need to step up to the plate and make the right decisions. It’s an accessible game that affects so many communities around this country.
“England needs to take a step forward and take a chance.”
North American he may be, but Tuck is now in his sixth season with Sheffield and is heavily invested in promoting the game in the local community.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing what’s happening,” he added.
“I see it first-hand; these kids come to our games, they take part in our junior programmes and on the talent pathways we have created. Then there’s the schools we go into, the amount of kids we’re engaging there. It’s one of the most popular participation sports so it’s very frustrating to see that the powers-that-be are cutting funding.
“I hope (Sunday’s) game will help in some way.”
On suffering an agonising loss, Tuck said: “We’re deflated, but we don’t feel defeated.”
He added: “It was a slow start from us and they capitalised on our mistakes. We couldn’t put the ball in the basket; I don’t know if it was pre-game jitters or what.
“At half-time the challenge was to just keep chipping away at them because the gap wasn’t too sizable.
“We got a bit of momentum back, stopped a few of their shots and got very close to Leicester.
“Chris Alexander got a good look at the rim in the last minute and had that dropped it might have been a different story.
“It’s frustrating thinking back to the little mistakes and the plays here and there that didn’t go our way.
“Hopefully it’s a performance that lights a fire under our bellies and gives us something to take into the final quarter of the season.”