Defending BBL champions Newcastle Eagles open the new season at Sport Central on Friday evening with a game against old rivals Glasgow Rocks.
Fabulous Flournoy’s team completed only the fifth clean sweep in BBL history last season as they lifted all four pieces of silverware, and became only the second team to achieve the feat a second time.
With four trophies to defend, player-coach Flournoy is relaxed about the extra pressure that brings: “The only expectations we really take into account are those we place on ourselves,” he said. “Whilst our goal is always to win every game we start each and every season with the primary aim of winning one trophy. The league is extremely competitive and if winning four trophies was easy it would have been done by more than three clubs in 26 years! So we want to be as good as we can be but we are under no illusions that there are a number of excellent teams out there who are easily capable on any given day of being successful.”
It’s almost a tradition in British basketball for Eagles and Rocks to meet on the opening weekend, and Flournoy is looking forward to matching up against their old rivals: “We know that we always seem to play them either at or close to the beginning of the year. We know that they are returning four excellent contributors from last year – EJ Harrison, Andrew Wedemire, Gareth Murray and Sterling [Davis] as well as a solid back up in Jonny Bunyan – and obviously we remember [Brice] Fantazia from two years ago. Obviously they have two new Americans to fit into the system but I am sure they will be a tough proposition.
“As with most teams in the league a lot depends upon the point guard and EJ is one of the best. But they do have good depth this year and looking at their roster any one of six or seven guys could have a big night. It doesn’t matter to us whether we are home or away to begin we just want to get going.”
Flournoy is happy with how his side have settled in during pre-season, and hasn’t ruled out adding to his roster: “Pre-season has been okay. We got our players in on time and have had three or four really competitive matchups. Our new guys are becoming more in tune with our system every day although it obviously takes longer than a couple of weeks to get everyone up to speed.
“At the moment we are satisfied with the personnel that we have. If the right player becomes available we may look to make a move but it is very much dependent on that player being the right fit.”
Rocks’ player-coach Sterling Davis isn’t concerned to be starting the season at the defending champions: “It’s not daunting at all to us. We have pretty much started every season facing them within the first couple of weeks so this is a typical season as far as I am concerned.
“Newcastle has done a great job in keeping their nucleus in place not only this season but seasons past, which as anyone can tell you gives you that slight early season advantage.
“Their proven players in Charles Smith and Joe Chapman will continue to lead them on the floor night after night. It will be interesting to see how their new recruits pan out just because as in any other new player to the league, there is an adjustment time to the way things are done here.”
Reigning BBL Molten MVP Chapman is ready for another tough game against the Rocks: “Every year since I’ve been here we’ve played them first, and it’s always a challenge. Four years ago it was my first pro game and I never scored a point! It’s always tough, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“You can never tell with new Americans how their chemistry will work, but EJ and Sterling are still there and leading the team so you know they’ll come strong and ready to play.”
You can also check out Sterling’s preview of the game here: