Sheffield Sharks and Sheffield Hatters unified at long last at Canon Medical Arena as Atiba Lyons makes roster change
Sheffield Sharks have been in existence for more than three decades, primarily playing out of Ponds Forge or the English Institute of Sport, with offices in Chapeltown.
Sheffield Hatters have been around for nearly twice as long and played out of All Saints Sports College on the other side of the city.
Now the two are in the same building, the new £14m privately-funded Canon Medical Arena in Attercliffe, which has three basketball courts and a number of offices, the majority of which are occupied by staff of the two clubs.
For Sarah Backovic, who is general manager for both clubs and a key driver in turning the arena into a reality, it has proven to be a vital step.
"It’s a change from anything we’ve ever known from the way we operate to the proximity we’re all working in, it’s brought everybody together in a very unified way; the men, the women," she said.
"It’s crazy that we’re only a step away from each other whereas before we used to have to get in the car and drive to see each other in different locations. In that regard it’s really brought the wider team together, and as a facility it’s just phenomenal.
"We’re inundated with positive remarks about everything to do with the arena, the look of it, the feel of it, the flow of it. There’s a camaraderie between the two teams that had been lost for a while that we’ve been able to bring back. It’s nice to have a hub for Sheffield basketball.
"It’s an inspirational place. For the women it’s something they’ve never experienced. I’m really pleased we’ve been able to boost the women’s game in the way that we have and we’re really keen to grow that.
"And of an evening it’s rammed with young people playing basketball, playing netball, playing volleyball; it’s lovely to see. It really feels like we’ve achieve goal No 1. So we’re thrilled...if a little exhausted.”
There are three double-headers planned during the season in which the Sharks will play at 3pm and the Hatters will tip-off at 6pm. The first is on November 25. Prior to that Sharks have two home games to prepare for this week, starting on Saturday against Manchester Giants (8pm) and then on Thursday against Surrey Scorchers (7.45pm).
Backovic said: “Saturday night is unfamiliar territory for us so we don’t know how that will work. So far it’s not bad, it’s steady in terms of ticket sales but this is the first Saturday we’ve done for many years.”
Ahead of the Manchester game, Sharks made a roster change with Terrell Allen leaving the club and Prentiss Nixon, a 26-year-old forward from Illinois, joining until the end of the season.
Nixon played for the Colorado State Rams and Iowa State Cyclones during his collegiate career and in Finland and the Latvian-Estonian league.
He said: “I am excited to get to Sheffield and for the opportunity to play in the British League. I think I can add energy to the Sharks’ roster. It seems like an exciting time to be a Shark with the new arena and the direction the league is headed.”
Head coach Atiba Lyons added: “Prentiss will definitely bring experience and a dynamic skill set at the guard slot that will enhance our performance. His ability to create opportunities for himself and others will be key.”