Esh Group Eagles Newcastle are not about one man or three men, they are a team that is filled with veterans and that look out for each other. It’s very rare that a team returns so many of their previous campaign’s players for the new season but when you’ve completed a “Clean Swoop” of all four National trophies the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ comes to mind.
So, when The Eagles confirmed the return of Drew Lasker for his third consecutive season it’s no wonder that fans and management were more than happy with the signature of the Texan native. Lasker is a coaches’ dream. Happy to play where and when Fab Flournoy wants him too and a man that epitomises what team basketball is all about.
When Flournoy’s season ended in March with that ruptured Achilles and with Andre Jones struggling for fitness their could have been a gap in Newcastle’s productivity. “No, sir” was Lasker’s attitude and his infectious, high-energy team play and a superb end to the season showed his worth to his side and team-mates.
His final statistics for the season of 7.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game may not look spectacular but they are good numbers from a player that knows his role from the bench and how to effect a game. Drew spoke on the eve of the 2015/16 season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to another season with Newcastle. This is my third year here and everything’s been great and we’ve been very successful. As a player you just want to stay hungry and keep that feeling so that’s the motivation for this season.”
When Drew re-signed for The Eagles three seasons ago he referred to the brief spell he’d had previously with The Club and that he had “unfinished business”. Having won all four trophies last season he could be forgiven if people thought the business was finished.
“If the business was done then I’d be done and I’d be riding off in to the sunset. The term was “unfinished business” now it’s “Strive to maintain.” Once you get up on top of that mountain there’s no better feeling and you want to see how long you can maintain it.
That’s the next challenge and in sports there’s always challenges that keep coming, that’s why sports is so great.”
With Andre Jones being replaced by Joe Chapman how does Drew see the team’s dynamics going in to the new season?
“I don’t see it changing that much. Both of those players are great players. Joe and Dre just play two different styles. I think that Joe just brings a lot more intangibles with him being an older player and a veteran and added to that he’s a great shooter. I think it’s going to leave that much more spacing on the floor because he’s such a great shooter.”
Does Drew think his own role will change much?
“I finished off last season playing really aggressive and was pretty happy with my form. I envisage myself doing even more of that this season because with this team we have a team full of great shooters as opposed to guys attacking the basket.
I think I’m one of the few along with Fletch and with any team you need that kind of guy to get easy buckets and get to the free-throw line. It’s going to be even easier when you have another guy that can shoot like Joe as it opens up that extra space on the floor.”
Fab Flournoy has repeatedly said that last season was last season and this one is a whole different ball game. Is it easy to just put last season in to the past and concentrate on this one when everyone’s out to beat you?
“You have to. One of the key things about this team is it’s a team full of vets, even Scott and Fletch are entering their third season as professionals..
When you’re a veteran team you learn to move forward and not dwell on the past because things can change very quickly as opposed to if we were a young team who could kinda get caught up in all that and hang your hats on what we did last season.
It’s a new season, it’s a fresh start. A lot of teams have revamped their rosters with rookies and fresh faces. Those fresh faces don’t care about what happened last season and actually a lot of them weren’t even here for what happened so in that regard you can’t hang on to what happened last year.
This year is this year and everyone and every team has essentially a fresh start and we all start out with the same record..”
Other teams were probably looking at The Eagles and trying to work out what they need to do to beat them. That’s probably been part of their thinking process. Does signing Joe make that a further adjustment they have to make?.
“I definitely think it does make a difference as it’ll open up the floor for us more. Joe’s a lot bigger and a lot smarter. It changes our dynamic a little bit but overall it’s pretty much the same recipe. That’s getting out there playing hard, playing our ‘D’ letting our defence lead to our offence. So in that regard it’s different but it’s the same.”
What kind of difference does it make not having Fab on-court at the beginning of the season?
“Don’t get me wrong, Fab is very, very important to what we do. But I think the great thing about this team is that we’re deep and we can hold down the fort until he gets back. It means he doesn’t feel that he has to rush his rehab, he can take his time and come back whenever he feels ready.
But whenever he does feel ready we’re going to need him at some point throughout the season. But we did finish last season off well without him so we’ve learned pretty much as a team that everyone has to pick up the slack.
There’s only one Fab but if we can all take a little piece of what he does then it’ll make it easier for everyone and we know he’s going to be there right on the sidelines to remind us.”
Lots of Teams talk about this rivalry and that rivalry but that’s not the Newcastle way. They look after themselves and leave the rest to worry about them?
“There’ll be no change at all. The fans and the media are the ones that get caught up in to the rivalry thing. We don’t look at anyone as a team, we don’t look at anyone as a rival because we give every team the same amount of respect and we don’t ever look past anyone.
I think that’s one of the keys to our success that we give every team equal respect and prepare the same for every team. The minute that you don’t is the minute that you can slip on that banana peel and give up a game here and there. So as a team we don’t have any rivalries, everyone’s our rivalry.”
Final message for The Newcastle fans?
“Since my time here they’ve been great. They’re one of the biggest reasons why we’re so successful because everywhere we go around the country they’re always there to support us. We just ask them to keep bringing it on bigger and better for 2015/16 and we’ll deliver for them.”
A confident sounding Drew Lasker but not arrogant or over confident. He, like his team-mates, know they are in for a tough season and they have to be prepared for whatever is thrown in thei way. Drew sounds ready and will no doubt have a big part to play.