Esh Group Eagles Newcastle will head into their season opener against Durham Wildcats in a better position than previous campaigns, according to coach Fab Flournoy.

There have been big changes at Sport Central over the summer with former stars Drew Lasker and Paul Gause among a raft of new recruits. But the new-look Eagles have had time to gel and can’t wait to test themselves against the BBL’s best, starting at home on Friday.

“We are really looking forward to the beginning of the season,” said Flournoy. “For the first time in what seems like years we have had the whole team together early and I feel we are a couple of steps ahead of where we normally are at this point. However, I am also aware that the whole league has strengthened so we are really just desperate to get started and into the season.”

The Eagles endured a rare trophy-less campaign last term finishing as runners-up in the BBL Championship, Play-offs and Cup. They do however enjoy a perfect record in six meetings with the Wildcats – not that Flournoy feels this reflects the intensity of their games.

“Durham have recruited basically a new team with the exception of Ralph Bucci and Paul Elderkin,” he added. “Our games are always tough, local derbies and I don’t see this one being any different.”

Last time they met:

Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 96 Durham Wildcats 92 (BBL Championship, Sport Central, 22/03/2013)

What they say:

Durham Wildcats guard Kirk Crecco: “I’ve heard great things about Newcastle’s club and all the success that they have had in the past. They are a very successful team and we’re looking forward to the challenge of getting an opportunity to play them so early in the season. The game should definitely provide us with a good measuring stick to where we are as a team right now and where we are trying to go because we want to be at the top of the standings with them.”

Returning Eagle Paul Gause: “We are just trying to come out and set the tone for the season and that would be winning of course. You have to see how things go in the game. Every team has a plan but the best teams can make in-game adjustments.”

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