Ben Mockford is closing in on a Newcastle Eagles comeback after revealing his frustration at being sidelined for the last five weeks.
The experienced Great Britain guard has missed the last three BBL fixtures after rolling his ankle at Cheshire on February 5.
And although this weekend’s double header against fierce rivals Leicester Riders could come too soon for Mockford, the 33-year-old is determined to play a part in Newcastle’s playoff push.
“It’s extremely frustrating to be in this position and I just want to be out there with the rest of the guys,” he said.
“Nobody wants to be on the sidelines but it’s a part of professional sport that you have to deal with.
“I felt as if I’d found some rhythm against Sheffield and I’d started well against the Phoenix but I knew straight away it was a bad one when I came down on my ankle.
“What’s made it more frustrating is that I made really good progress in the first couple of weeks and I even had one eye on a comeback with the GB squad.
“But I was told that this would be a six to seven-week rehabilitation and right now it’s looking like that.”
Mockford has used his time on the bench to take a fresh look at an Eagles roster seeking to halt a three-game skid.
And the former Cheshire and Bristol favourite is convinced Newcastle still have the time — and the talent — to turn their season around.
“You get to see the game from a different perspective when you’re on the bench and I can see a lot of positives in this team,” he added.
“We know it’s now or never if we’re going to make the run that we need to get into the playoffs.
“But this team has more than enough talent. It’s just about maintaining focus and discipline for 40 minutes.
“In professional basketball playing for 35 minutes just isn’t good enough and we’ve seen that in the last few weeks.
“On the other hand we’re right there in terms of getting a win. The guys just need to figure out how to close out games and get those wins.”
Leicester roll into town on Friday for what looks set to be the latest in a series of Vertu Motors Arena sell outs this season.
And Marc Steutel’s men head to the Riders’ Morningside Arena less than 48 hours later as a punishing schedule tightens its grip.
“We have to be aggressive in both games against Leicester,” added Mockford.
“We have to force the Riders to make decisions and plays that they don’t want to make.
“They’re a very well organised and well-structured team and our priority has to be to take them out of their comfort zone from the start.
“On Friday it’s vital that we dictate the pace of the game and get after Leicester defensively.”
Mockford is champing at the bit to get back on court and add his wealth of experience to a team seeking to turn the corner.
But he remains convinced that Newcastle’s disappointing season isn’t over just yet.
“If I’m not on court then it’s my job to encourage the guys and try to give them as much knowledge and information as I can,” he added.
“I’m sat there looking at a talented and an athletic team that’s a match for almost anyone in this league.
“We have to play to our strengths and if we stick to our guns then the results will come.”
A limited number of tickets remain for Friday’s BBL Championship clash against the Riders from the box office.