Commonwealth Games: Adopted Yorkshireman Mike Tuck told not to return home without a medal

Canadian-born and American-educated he may be, but as Mike Tuck will demonstrate in the colours of Team England on the Gold Coast of Australia this month, there is a seam of Sheffield steel running through his veins.

Mike Tuck, left, is presented with his Team England vest in Brisbane (Picture: Basketball England)

For this adopted Yorkshireman there is only one nation that matters, and one mission that drives him – winning gold for the England men’s basketball team.

Tuck is in his sixth year with the Sheffield Sharks in the British Basketball League, and entering his second decade as a British passport holder.

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He may not be as English as cricket and a cup of tea, but in the work he does promoting basketball throughout the city he now calls home, he has certainly earned his corn.

Furthermore, his family heritage means he knows what it means to represent your country.

“My grandad flew planes in World War Two,” he says matter-of-factly, underplaying the significance of such a noble and heroic act.

Tuck’s mother was born in Bournemouth, providing the grounds on which he qualifies to hold a British passport.

He himself was born in Toronto in 1983, only started playing basketball when he was 10 and attended Loyola College in Maryland.

He landed in Sheffield in 2009 and has never looked back, taking the captain’s armband for the Sharks and leading them to four trophies in a successful chapter in the club’s BBL journey.

He has also expanded his cv by taking basketball into schools and the local communities, by taking the lead in the club’s marketing department and by working as a television analyst covering the league.

At 35 it is understandable he would be wondering what is next, even though 12 months ago he had no idea what was right around the corner.

“It’s only really this year that representing England in the Commonwealth Games had been talked about,” says Tuck, whose experience was enhanced further when he was named captain of the team at their training camp in Brisbane.

“I received a letter out of the blue last summer inviting me to take part in the trials. I thought brilliant, what an opportunity.

“So I went to the first trials in November and progressed, then to the second in February, and now here I am representing England in the Commonwealth Games.

“I still can’t believe it’s actually happening.”

Once the reality has dawned and the serious business of the basketball competition gets underway, Tuck is as determined as any of his team-mates to deliver glory.

England play Cameroon, Scotland and India in Pool B of the eight-team basketball tournament.

It is the sport’s first appearance in the old Empire Games since 2006, when back on Australian soil England won a bronze medal, something Tuck is reminded of every day back home.

“There’s actually a guy in the Sharks office, Andrew Bridge, who played on the 2006 team that won the bronze medal,” he laughs. “He’s already said to me, ‘don’t bother coming back if it’s not with a medal of a different colour’.”

That might be easier said than done. There is no USA ‘Dream Team’ in Australia, or any of the Eastern European heavyweights, but in Canada, hosts Australia and New Zealand – all of which are in Pool A – danger lurks.

A medal of any colour could do wonders for basketball in this country.

The underlying subplot of the Commonwealth Games basketball tournament is the opportunity the sport has to continue driving the debate about mass participation levels in urban areas and among ethnic minorities, offset by funding cuts the sport has suffered at the highest level.

“This will help keep basketball in the public eye, it will help maintain the narrative, because people will be watching,” adds Tuck.

“If we bring home a medal it will prove that basketball should have a greater focus in British sport. Obviously we’re going out there with the main ambition of winning a medal, but collectively we know how important a moment this could be and how exciting an opportunity it is for our sport.”