Marc Steutel has paid tribute to the bravery and leadership of red hot Rickey McGill after the gung-ho guard put his body on the line at Plymouth.

The Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles star went to the bonus stripe 16 times as the visitors closed out a tough game down the stretch against the struggling Patriots.

And McGill’s monster effort — the US shooter led all scorers with 27 points — underpinned the 92-80 win that keeps the men in black firmly in the top four race.

“Toughness is the word that I use for Rickey,” said Steutel after the Newcastle playcaller plotted a fourth victory on the bounce.

“He’s an incredible basketball player and he has a lot of responsibility in the backcourt alongside Jordan [Johnson] and Larry [Austin Jr].

“I thought Rickey did an outstanding job of getting through the paint and putting pressure on the Plymouth defence.

“It’s no mean feat to get to the free throw line 16 times but talking to Rickey afterwards he was just mad that he missed two free throws!

“That’s the level of pressure he puts on himself and the standard he holds himself to. I absolutely love having him with us.”

Steutel jumps straight from British Basketball League action to the international arena as he welcomes his Great Britain roster to Tyneside today.

Marc Steutel will be coaching Great Britain as they take on the Netherlands at the Vertu Motors Arena. (Photos: Gary Forster)

And all eyes will be on Friday’s crunch Eurobasket clash against the Netherlands at the Vertu Motors Arena.

But Steutel will use the international break to give his players a well-earned breather before assistant Gary Stronach picks things up again in practice towards the end of next week.

“The guys are going to have a few days’ rest which, I think, everyone would agree is needed after the schedule we’ve had and the injuries we’ve had to deal with,” added the Eagles’ playcaller.

“It’s an opportunity for some vital physical recovery and a bit of a reset before Gary gets everyone together again while I’m on international duty.

“It’s very common, throughout the international break, for teams to have time off and I’m happy for our guys to have that — it’ll be really important for them physically and mentally.

“I’m looking forward to getting back with the group the following week to prepare for a big European North Basketball League (ENBL) tie against Bakken on March 1.”

Basement club Plymouth looked set to give Newcastle a scare on Friday as Paul James’ men went toe to toe with the Eagles for three quarters of a keenly contested affair.

But the visitors held firm — with an ice-cool McGill to the fore — and forced an incredible 22 turnovers as they intensified the pressure on the Pats down the stretch.

Steutel was far from happy with his team’s defensive focus prior to the break but admitted Newcastle’s trademark pressing game ultimately paid dividends.

“In truth I thought that our defensive intent in the first half wasn’t at the level that it was required to be,” he added.

“To still turn them over 22 times shows how hard the guys worked. We did step it up in the second half which was good to see.

“Generally the guys were locked into our game plan. We always try and pressure the ball, try to be disruptive and try to make sure that we do a good job in the gaps.

“The 22 turnovers was a pleasing statistic in the box score and we’ll try to build on that pressure game as we get towards the business end of the season.”

Newcastle face the final three months of the season in joint-fourth spot in the Championship and down to the last eight in the ENBL.

And as Steutel prepared to wave goodbye to his charges for the next 10 days he added: “Four wins on the bounce is hugely positive.

“It’s great to take that momentum into the break and we’ll come back in a fortnight’s time determined to build on that momentum.

“We don’t look any further forward than the next game in front of us but we can approach that game full of confidence.”

Tickets are still available for Friday’s Great Britain game against the Netherlands at the box office.