NEWCASTLE Eagles duo Lynard Stewart and Steve Leven are celebrating today after being handed big boosts ahead of this weekend’s title run-in.
The irrepressible Stewart has rightly been named BBL Player of the Month after a string of stellar performances during March, while Leven has been handed a shock place in the provisional Great Britain squad for a training programme ahead of their vital European Championship qualifying campaign.
While Stewart was always in line to scoop the award after his efforts, the inclusion of Australian Leven is an intriguing one – particularly since he didn’t appear on the first squad list that was issued.
However, head coach Chris Finch, has obviously been made aware of Leven being qualified to play for the side due to him holding a British passport via his parentage, and decided to hand the Aussie a huge opportunity.
The news of his inclusion is a particular tribute to the Eagles hierarchy in their recruitment of Leven since they very much had to take a risk on him due to his bad-boy reputation. Former Eagles stars Andrew Sullivan and Richard Midgley are also named in the squad, while Leven is joined by fellow BBL players Yorick Williams and Chris Haslam.
However, the real exciting news for British basketball fans is that NBA superstar Luol Deng has been joined by Chicago Bulls team-mate Ben Gordon giving the GB team every chance of overcoming Israel, Bosnia and the Czech Republic in the summer.
For Stewart this latest award is another in a long line of notable achievements. The three-time BBL All Star has had a terrific first season on Tyneside and a stunning last couple of weeks. He has recorded double-doubles of points and rebounds in his last five outings, averaging 19 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Most amazingly, he has shot 78.7%, while even in defeat, the 31-year-old still outshone his team-mates when he managed 26 points and six rebounds in the BBL Trophy Final.
Managing director Paul Blake was quick to congratulate both players on their achievements and how it reflects on the club generally.
He said: ‘It was great news that Steve has been invited into the GB squad for its 2008 programme. It’s an excellent opportunity for Steve and is also good news from a club perspective as we continue to be keen to have British elite players on the roster.’
‘I am also pleased that Lynard has finally picked up this honour this season and think it is actually a little overdue. He has given everything on and off the court this season and is just a great guy to have around the club. I am sure the Eagles supporters will agree he has been great to watch all year and thoroughly deserves this award,’ added Blake.