Newcastle Eagles: Going backwards to go forwards?
Last Season Finish: 3rd
Makem Takem Prediction 2018/19: 2nd
Key Player(s): Rahmon Fletcher
Likely Starting Five: PG – Fletcher / SG – Thomas/ SF – Kai Williams / PF – Moses / C – Defoe
Concerns: Can they recapture the old Eagles spirit?
Last season was a season to forget for the Eagles. It was the first time since 2006 that they finished outside the top two, yes 2006 was the last time. That must of hurt in the north-east as they are used to being in around any silverware that is up for grabs.
It is clear that last year’s roster did not adopt the usual style of Eagles and left Coach Flournoy frustrated for much of the season. The answer to how can Eagles move forward from this is to go backward. The return of Rahmon Fletcher was a huge step and he will be once again one of the best players in the league. Other familiar faces returning to Tyneside are Darius Defoe, Kai Williams, Jamal Williams, Drew Lasker, Eddie Matthew, Themba
The key players from the returnees are Darius Defoe, Kai Williams and Drew Lasker. Defoe will have to up his game this season as the standard of big men in the league has gone up in the off season. Kai Williams will have to find some consistency as he provides a highly versatile option for the Eagles to run some small ball. Drew Lasker is also critical as Fletcher has been known to get into foul trouble and outside of Lasker there is no one else on the Eagles roster capable of running the point for them.
They have also brought back standout BBL player from the 13/14 season, Victor Moses. Moses managed to put up an impressive 22.4ppg and 12.3rpg for Cheshire Phoenix in that campaign. It is unlikely we will see those numbers again as Eagles have always been more about spreading the love on the offensive end than focusing on one player.
The other two additions are Ahmed Thomas, a strong two guard from North Carolina-Asheville, and Kyle Williams, a wing from Norfolk State. Both players seem well suited to the return of the Eagles style as they are unselfish, have good fundamentals and can shoot the ball well from the perimeter.
The Eagles have definitely brought together a higher quality, deeper roster than last season. This roster contains players that are proven to produce within the BBL and are more about team than self (which couldn’t be said of last year’s team). The issue is however that they don’t look to have clicked yet. This could be an issue as the season is just around the corner and they can’t afford a slow start if they want to challenge for the title. Riders only lost five games all season last year and it is hard to see them losing many more this time around (unless their European adventures get in the way). Eagles, therefore, have to jump out of the blocks and pick up wins early. There is no time for them to find their feet and this could be their biggest issue. If they can get through to the end of October without a loss they should be able to mount a strong challenge for the title.