By Jamie Thomas
He’s committed his long-term future to Ben Thomas’ side but in the short-term Cheshire Phoenix center Mike Ochereobia is fully focussed on picking up another piece of silverware for the north-west side this year, as the BBL Play-offs edge closer .
After re-signing with Cheshire for his second spell with the club at the beginning of this season, ‘Big Mike’ has found success in the last six months and been a key part of the club’s best spells this term. We caught up with him to find out more about his return from him.
“Cheshire is like a second home to me, it is a special place. It isn’t often you go to a club and feel comfortable straight away with everything from the staff to the fans to the culture, but as soon as I got here in my first spell I loved it and it was a no-brainer to come back because I feel it is the best place to show my potential and what I’m capable of.
“Two years ago we had a really good team, some super talented guys in the squad, but the season was cut short because of the pandemic so I felt like I had unfinished business and that’s why I wanted to come back to put that right.
“I matured in my year playing for Plymouth and I’ve worked hard on having a more positive outlook on things and not getting too high or too low in different moments in games. Every year teaches you something new and I’m certainly a better player this year than when I was first here.”
“To beat them was extra special for me to be honest.”
The post-season will see Cheshire once again entangled in battle with the London Lions, whom the Phoenix have had many an epic encounter with this year – none more so than the BBL Trophy Final, where Ochereobia and his teammates left Glasgow with a title to show for their efforts.
The veteran reflected on that successful outing in Scotland for the team, how much it meant to him to beat London and why they were especially pleased to secure victory.
“Even before we won the Trophy I still had really good feelings about being back here. Winning the Final was just the icing on the cake, to be honest, and it was just such an amazing experience to be able to deliver a title for this team and for the fans.
“I was in the same final last year for Plymouth against London and having to watch them lift the Trophy and celebrate while we were standing there was just horrible and I never wanted to experience that again, so to beat them was extra special for me to be honest
“Our fans were unbelievable, it felt like a home game for us to just have a wall of green behind the bench and it was more important than anything else to us as a team that we won it for them because they deserve success.”
“I feel like we’ve got enough about us to be a dark horse.”
There have been times this year where the Phoenix have looked unstoppable, particularly in a very fruitful couple of months following the Christmas period where Cheshire built the momentum that helped them to Trophy glory.
Ochereobia discussed the evidence he’s seen this season that leads him to believe Cheshire have as good a chance as any other team in the BBL of reaching the Finals at the 02 Arena on May 15th and leaving with silverware.
“Our experiences this season of being in semi-finals and finals give us an edge going into the playoffs because we know how to perform in those do-or-die situations, and it has been particularly beneficial for the younger guys on the team to know what to expect in high-pressure situations.
“I feel like we’ve got enough about us to be a dark horse to be successful in the playoffs. Leicester have been the best team in the regular season but in the playoffs everything is up for grabs and we’re so competitive as a group that we believe we can beat anybody, no matter the odds.
“We’ve got some great guys this year as well. Larry (Austin Jr) is playing out of his mind right now and we’ve got a roster full of guys that can all contribute when called upon, so if we stick to our game and what we know we’re best at, we can give anybody a real challenge.”
“I want to help the club build.”
Having recently committed to a two-year deal with the club, Ochereobia is in it for the long haul with Coach Thomas and his team, and he discussed the reasoning for committing his longer-term future to the Phoenix.
“When you find a team that you’re comfortable with and have a good relationship with, it is important to latch onto that and stick with the right fit. I’ve had such a great time here, it is a really special club to me and I didn’t think twice about staying here for another two years.
“I want to help this club build towards its aims and ambitions and make it a more dominant force in this league – it is important and exciting to see more clubs in the league returning players for longer terms and I’m excited to be a part of this club’s future for the next two years.
“As long as we leave it all out there we can be proud of what we do at this club, and our next opportunity to do that is in the playoffs. We give it a 100% every game and if we leave it all out there and have no regrets then there’s no reason I can see that we can’t be in the 02 Arena in a few weeks.”
Get your tickets for the BBL Playoff Finals and join us for the showpiece finale to an epic season at London’s 02 Arena on May 15th here!