A former Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles favourite turned high flying foodie has been identified as one of the rising stars of business by the British Basketball League.
Lamar Morrison, who made his debut for the men in black 12 years ago this month, co-owns the family-run Gwarn Jerk restaurants in Newcastle and Gateshead.
And the 30-year-old has been selected for marketing support by league bosses seeking to shine a light on small local black-owned businesses during Black History Month.
Morrison, who made his Eagles debut against Durham Wildcats in 2011 under Fabulous Flournoy, said: “It’s great to see that the British Basketball League is supporting independent business in this way.
“Gwarn Jerk is a Tyneside-based business run by me, my mum, her partner, my little brother and his partner. It really is a family affair!
“But it was my mum’s idea and that’s what makes this support even more special. The emphasis of Black History Month this year is on ‘saluting our sisters’ and it’s about time that my mum got some long overdue recognition.
“She’s my biggest idol and the real driving force behind Gwarn Jerk. it had always been her dream to open a restaurant and, during lockdown, she decided it was now or never.
“She’d moved up to Newcastle the previous year and started to look at some premises. We took the plunge and went from there.”
As part of the British Basketball League’s commitment to showcasing black-owned small businesses this month, Gwarn Jerk will benefit from game night advertising on the LED boards at the Vertu Motors Arena on Friday against the London Lions.
The club will add to that with advertising at the Eagles’ first European North Basketball League home game this coming Tuesday night.
And Eagles season ticket holders can now claim 15% off their food orders from Lamar’s Tyneside restaurants throughout the 2023/24 campaign with full details available when they login to the box office.
Marc Steutel’s men’s roster are regular visitors to Gwarn Jerk and are big fans of a menu rich in authentic Caribbean cuisine.
“I’ve always maintained a strong connection with the Eagles and Ross Wilson is one of my good friends from back in the day,” added Lamar.
“I’m still close to a lot of the guys from the Eagles School Of Excellence days and I’ve never lost touch with Darius [Defoe].
“Even before she moved up here in 2019 my mum would bring food up from Birmingham and she’d always have some patties in her bag just for Darius and Jamie Glen.
“Long after I moved up here she’d send me back with food and the rest of the guys loved it.”
Lamar’s mother, Natasha Martin, always took pride in feeding her Birmingham-based family the very best that the Caribbean has to offer.
And it’s Gwarn’s home-cooked menu that’s proved to be a huge hit with diners from across the UK.
“Caribbean food is becoming more and more popular up here and that’s partly because the demographic’s changing in the North East,” added Lamar.
“There are more people moving up from London as well as Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds and they’re looking for different options.
“In Birmingham it’s easy to get Caribbean food — it’s like fish and chips up here. On some streets you’ll find four or five restaurants on the same road.
“For a lot of the Eagles’ guys, as well as the wider community, Gwarn Jerk’s become a bit of a home from home but that’s down to my mum.
“She has such a big heart and she’s a mother to all of the guys who come up here for the first time looking to find some comfort in the food they know and love.
“Last season, when she heard Rowell Graham-Bell wasn’t feeling too good, she made soup for him and she’s always helping out the team where she can.
“I really admire her for having the Gwarn Jerk idea and just running with it. She still works part-time as a social worker and she’s a very busy woman — but everybody loves her!”
Lamar was persuaded to head north by current Eagles’ head coach Marc Steutel and went on to represent Newcastle and Team Northumbria before hanging up his boots in 2019.
“Basketball changed my life and when Marc asked me to come up to Newcastle it was the most important conversation I ever had,” he added.
“I didn’t even know where the city was — I looked on a map and saw that it was near to Scotland! For a kid from Birmingham that was a long, long way away. I think the only thing I knew about Newcastle back then was Ant and Dec!
“But I’ve loved the place from day one and the way I was welcomed into the Eagles community was all part of that. To still be a part of that community 14 years later feels very special.”
To give back to Eagles fans, the club’s Men’s and Women’s season ticket holders can now enjoy 15% discount at Gwarn Jerk as part of the 2023-24 card holder benefits with details on how to get this offer available in the Card Holders Area of the box office.
Visit Gwarn Jerk at either their new Newcastle venue on Benwell Lane (NE15 6RT) or in Gateshead on High Street, Felling (NE10 9LU).