The NZ Breakers said farewell to Akil Mitchell today, the American import has boarded a plane to head home for further specialist treatment on his injured eye and will miss the final regular season game at the North Shore Events Centre this Friday night.
Head Coach, Paul Henare, says Mitchell has been given leave to return to the States and seek specialist treatment at home.
“Akil has been magnificent these past two weeks since the injury suffered against Cairns. Right from the moment he left the floor with one arm raised to the fans, thinking of them despite the obvious pain and distress he was in, he has been a model of professionalism and has lived Breakers values in all he has said and done.
“However, it has become clear in recent days that he was not making the progress he would like and his agent has organized for him to receive further treatment back home. Understandably healing 100% from this injury is of the utmost concern to Akil and we as a team and club support him in that goal and wish him a full recovery.”
It is not known whether Mitchell will return for the playoffs, should the Breakers emerge from the final round of action inside the top four, but Henare and Mitchell have left that door very much open.
“Right now, our concern is for Akil to return to full health and we are not putting that sort of pressure on him. But he has said that should he be given the all clear to return to playing duties and is given a clean bill of health, he wants to come back and help us if he can. We will discuss that if and when the time comes, for now we want him to focus on getting healthy.”
It was an emotional Mitchell who spoke about leaving this week.
“I leave with a heavy heart but I must do all I can to make sure I return to full health. The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster to say the least, but I have never lacked for the support and love of my team mates, coaches and everyone at the club. The messages from the fans here at the Breakers and from back home in the US have meant the world to me and my family.
“Right now I must leave no stone unturned and have made the call to head home and get further treatment on my eye, I hope the fans understand. I have spoken to the team and they know that my thoughts are with them on Friday, I truly believe in this group and know we can not only make the post-season, but give anyone a shake up once we are there.”