South East Melbourne star Tyler Cook has praised the competitive fire from Sunday's clash with Perth.

2 Oct
By Dan Woods for

South East Melbourne centre Tyler Cook has praised the mentality of Perth Next Star Alexandre Sarr following a coming together between the pair in Sunday’s Round 1 clash.

The big men had to be separated by teammates following a massive dunk by Cook on Sarr, but the former Chicago Bull praised the fire of the emerging French phenom.

“I’ve got even more respect for him because of that,” Cook said post-game. “I think people get caught up in thinking stuff like that is personal, when I just like to compete.

“I wouldn’t want him not coming back at me. I think he’s as talented as can be, and he has all the tools to be a really great player. For him to step back at me made me appreciate more.

“I hate to sound conceited, but that’s what I do.

“Having healthy emotion in the game is more about keeping ourselves engaged and keeping the game fun for ourselves.”

While the Phoenix ran out as 11-point winners in the clash, a late run by Perth saw them trim the deficit and show signs of a potential final quarter comeback.

The Wildcats scored 28 points in the final quarter, where South East Melbourne head coach Mike Kelly utilised the large margin to give minutes to other players in the squad.

Development players Anzac Rissetto and Kody Stattmann each earned good burn in the final quarter, while Luke Rosendale scored his first NBL points and finished the game with six points.

Kelly says while Perth’s late run did cause some concern, he always felt comfortable with the second unit on the floor.

“Those young guys have played so well, and I was trying to gee them up a little bit in a timeout after they made some plays,” Kelly said.

“They compete with the first team really well during practice, and sometimes they’re kicking their butts in practice. I try to remind those guys of that and I think they need those minutes.

“Owen Foxwell is going to play minutes for our team and he’s going to be super important. Rhys Vague was good for us tonight but he’s going to need those extra minutes. Matt Kenyon, Kody Stattmann, Anzac, they’ve all done important things over the pre-season and we need them.

“If something bad happened to something who had played 25 minutes I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself. I think it was a good time to change that.”

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