Fab Flournoy expects Kareem Maddox to play a pivotal role in Newcastle Eagles’ title defence, despite admitting he feared he might have to replace the American in pre-season.

The Ivy Leaguer, who arrived from Dutch club Zwolle in the summer, concedes he is still only about “95%” in his fight to recover from an injury sustained earlier this year.

However, following impressive performances against Glasgow and Manchester, the centre has done enough to suggest he will be a big factor in the BBL.

“Give the kid a lot of credit, he came off a big injury last season and was a step slow when he first got here,” revealed Flournoy. “There were a few question marks over whether he would be able to deliver. But those last two games, he’s just stepped it up and gotten better and better.

“He dominated the boards against Glasgow and his offense started to shine through and he became the perfect fit for us and a perfect complement for (Charles) Smith and (Joe) Chapman. He’s a totally different player from Andy Thomson but still a good fit. I just hope he continues that.”

The Eagles have got off to an unbeaten start, leading the league and doing much to establish themselves as favourites to retain all of their domestic prizes.

In what is bad news for their would-be challengers, Flournoy expects to add an extra player over the next week – likely an additional forward – to strengthen his bench.

Yet he will urge his team to get ready for a season-long scrap.

“Because the BBL is more of a marathon rather than a sprint, you have teams who go on runs of good spells, or get hot and cold,” he said.

“We’re in the opening stages of the season and the one thing you don’t want to get is too complacent early. Teams are still finding their identity whereas we already know how we want to play.”

Read an exclusive interview with Kareem Maddox in the new issue of MVP Magazine.

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