How Newcastle are on pace for the season of seasons. Plus Fraser’s fitness fight and TV bonuses.


“I know it’s an old cliché,” Rahmon Fletcher declares, “but we always approach every game the same. We focus on the game that’s ahead. That’s not even something that Fab (Flournoy) preaches to us. It’s not in the script at all. It’s just how everybody on this team looks at things.”

Yup, we have heard such pronouncements before – the ‘old one game at a time’ chestnut. In the case of Newcastle Eagles, it has become a source of internal pride, even in a season when they have now collected both the BBL Cup and Trophy, where yet another British Basketball League title is (at most) five wins away and where – Worcester Wolves apart – their most consistent opponent has been sheer boredom/complacency.

And yet even with scans confirming that Flournoy will miss the remainder of the campaign with a 70% tear in the Achilles of his right foot that he sustained in Sunday’s Trophy victory over an uninhibited Leicester, it is near impossible to see the Tyneside giants losing again – having effectively seen the kitchen sink thrown at them by the Riders and, with supreme resilience, tossed it straight back again.

Newcastle have now followed up an early season 19-game victorious streak with a 16-game-and-counting run. And although Flournoy could, as he has often done, opt to rest his players for a closing weekend double-header with potential post-season foes Cheshire and Leicester, his side has the chance to pull off what would statistically be the best campaign in league history.

In league terms, they will end up behind Kingston’s 23-1 blitz in 1990-91. But we shouldn’t forget that the Kings, possibly the best crew this country has ever fielded, didn’t lift the Cup.

And if you look across all domestic competitions, here’s the top overall records up to now:

2014-15 Newcastle 50-2 *
1990-91 Kingston 37-2
1988-89 Glasgow 35-3 **
1991-92 Kingston 37-4
1992-93 Worthing 40-4

* possible record ** Glasgow were ineligible for the English National Cup.

Food for thought in the historical debate ahead.

The Eagles recipe for grinding it out over and over? “We plateau – high,” Fletcher maintains.
“Everybody else is up and down. We stay plateaued. When opponents play us. They come up to that level. So then we have to take it to another notch, regardless. The consistency for us is such a big thing.

“Me being a point guard, if I feel something’s not going right, if I have to score or if I have to make a play, I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’ll get everybody else the ball. So when it comes to crunch time, they’ll get what they need, whether it’s to score myself or for someone else to take that lead.”

Ask opposing coaches what sets Newcastle apart and one word, inevitably, comes up: depth.

They get a league-best 30.52 points off their bench (which just happens to include Charles Smith and Drew Lasker). And that squad allows them to make a top-ranked 17 fouls per game, giving Flournoy the luxury of hacking down easy makes.

Without adjusting for pace, their offensive (117.8) and defensive (95.9) rating heads everyone else and they accrue vast amounts of steals and points off turnovers, a testament to the energetic approach employed.

“We have nine, ten players that can play. And who deserve to play,” Fletcher acknowledges. “That’s big for us. There’s never a drop when someone subs in. That’s a huge advantage for us, with a bench where you have guys like Stuart (Thomson) and Drew, in addition to Fab and Chuck (Smith).”

Losing Flournoy – who will undergo surgery on Thursday and then begin what is expected to be a prolonged rehab process – would hurt, if not dramatically on the floor. Yet watching a 41-year-old who pushes himself to the limit in practice every day means his younger team-mates can’t even consider slacking off. Bested by an old man? No thanks.

“He leads by example,” adds Fletcher. “How can you argue with someone who’s been there and done that? He’s been over here since 1995. I didn’t even know what basketball was then. Even Drew’s 32, (Darius Defoe)’s 30. When you have guys who can set that tone, you follow.”

That will not change. The pattern has been set. And even if you might not hear running the table around the Eagles lunch table, the players know what opportunity knocks. And you can bet on them gunning for it.

“I don’t think we lack confidence,” Fletcher declares. “Some people might confuse that with arrogance. We’re not. It’s just that we’re confident about what we can do now if we play to our potential.”


Those who came early to the Emirates Arena on Sunday got a little cameo from a Great Britain international who has fallen off the radar.

Ali Fraser, released by Glasgow Rocks after just one game earlier this season due to his non-recovery from off-season knee surgery, piled up 24 points and 17 rebounds for Falkirk Fury in an exhibition against St. Mirren ahead of the Trophy finale.

Fraser: GB cappedThe 22-year-old forward, who played at EuroBasket 2013, is still edging his way back to full fitness with his recovery from a meniscus tear far from complete almost eight months after going under the knife.

“I’m still not 100%,” he confirmed. “I don’t practice on consecutive days. My knee can take weight as normal but I still feel a few niggles. But I’ll keep rehabbing it until the end of the season.”

Fraser has remained with Falkirk, his Scottish junior club, rather than the paid ranks while his fightback remains unfinished business, despite some interest from within the BBL.

It seems likely, he confirmed, that he will look to return to Germany’s Pro A next term with a second stint at former club Gotha Rockets set to be a primary option.

“Hopefully there’ll be some GB stuff to test (the knee) out more,” he said. “If not, then I’ll work out myself and see about going back to Germany.”

Meanwhile his former international team-mate Kyle Johnson has signed until the end of the season with Italian Lega A2 club Angelico Biella after staying home in his native Canada with Brampton. It will be his third stint in the country.

Tyne tease TV

There was a little bonus ball on BBL TV last Friday with the unannounced broadcast of Newcastle against Bristol Flyers. Why the secrecy? Well, Sports Central has long been a black hole in the league’s streaming service because of unreliable internet connections at Northumbria University.

Now that has been resolved, expect more games from Tyneside, starting with the visit of Surrey United this coming Friday.

Outside shots
Leeds Force’s Darrell Bethune still striving to reach his full potential

Louis Sayers’ future may be in Spain or Germany, claims Jay Marriott

FIBA are leaning on the organisers of the 2018 Commonwealth Games to go with a 3v3 option over full-court

Now back on his feet, ex-Guildford Heat guard Brian Dux is giving old team-mate Danny Gilbert an assist

A now well-spun tale but Alex Owumi’s incredible journey gets some play on MSG Network

There are no Brits left in the NCAA Tournament – but here’s a nice look at the one who was the last man standing: Iowa centre Gabriel Olaseni

BBL Insider appears every Tuesday on MVP

Main photo: Mansoor Ahmed

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login