THOMSON BACK IN NEWCASTLE AFTER FRENCH EXIT

tigers_win_bbl_ville_568Andrew Thomson has re-joined Newcastle Eagles after seeking a return to the BBL following his La Rochelle exit.

The British forward has spent the last two seasons playing for the French NM1 side, but took the decision to leave the club in search of a new challenge.

Newcastle, where he had a previous spell, appears an ideal fit.

He said: “It’s been an enjoyable two seasons playing in La Rochelle. The style really suited my game which helped me settle well and play team basketball. It was great to experience the French lifestyle, but I thought it was time for a change.

He added: “I had a successful time with the club; making the play-offs and both final fours, whilst also improving the teams league position, but it felt right to maybe see another part of France or elsewhere. However, I also believe Coach wanted to develop a younger team.”

Despite being the third tier of French basketball, the NM1 is regarded as a significant step-up to the standard and financial pull of the BBL.

In recent weeks, the league has seen another top British talent in Rob Marsden leave for the shores of Cognac while American Jay Couisnard is also making the move across the channel after ending his two-year stay with Leicester Riders.

And Thomson admits that financial assurances play a major role in luring players overseas.

“The leagues have a big gulf between each other when it comes to paying players. In France, you’re protected and guaranteed your money if injured.

“As for the standard, I didn’t know much about the league before I flew over, but I was quietly surprised in a good way. I would say, all teams within NM1 are equal to the top four teams in the BBL. Therefore, on any given night, if you don’t come to play, you’ll get beat.”

Glasgow, who have been linked with ex-Worcester star Tommy Freeman, and former team Newcastle had been the two possible suitors for a return, but Thomson – speaking before agreeing his contract at the Eagles – expressed his caution.

“To return to the BBL, I would like to know the team focus on player protection, in terms of my job, my health and payment of my agreed salary,” he said. “Having faith in a club and believing they will recruit a successful team is also a selling point for me, as contributing towards another four trophy win would be a huge achievement. At the end of the day we can’t play Basketball forever so money does talk as well.

Thomson enjoyed plenty of success in his three seasons in the BBL after winning a total of nine trophies with Everton/Mersey (2009-11) and Newcastle (2011-12). The 6’10” forward’s third and final season proved to be most memorable as the Eagles completed a historic clean sweep for the second time in the club’s history.

“I’m proud of my three seasons in the BBL, but for different reasons,” reflected Thomson. “Everton Tigers was my first time playing in the top league in Britain and that was a proud moment because I watched the league when I was growing up. Also, I was able to finish the season with a playoff finals win.

“Mersey Tigers, was a huge accomplishment for winning the treble but while having to deal with the financial mess the owner had gotten the team into, it was a strain. However, the team stayed together and we won the trophies for ourselves.

“I was then able to finish off the mission which fell short the season before, with Newcastle Eagles. Being part of a team that won ‘All 4′ was a very proud moment for me. These moments go along playing for England and also winning a Championship at college.”

Since plying his trade overseas, Thomson has been a reliable performer in France and averaged 9.5 points per game in La Rochelle’s most recent campaign in which they made the semi-finals of the playoffs. The forward saw his numbers drop from the previous season and believes that was down to refraining from taking more opportunities for himself.

He admitted: “I had an ok season, but it wasn’t how I would have liked to play. I think one of my best traits is being consistent and I struggled with that this year, especially when it came to my scoring. My percentages were fine but at times I played for the team too much and wasn’t selfish enough.”

Having recently turned 30, the hunger and desire is still there and Thomson can certainly still play an integral role wherever his career takes him next. Whilst an immediate return may be unlikely, Thomson hinted that being home-bound would be an ideal way to curtail a successful career.

“I still have the bug for basketball so I don’t see myself giving up anytime soon. I feel if I look after myself, stay in shape and I’m lucky, I could play for a good few years. I think every player wants to finish their career in their home country and celebrate their years of playing in front of friends and family, who for me have been a huge support.”

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