Chris Finch is confident Newcastle have signed the BBL’s next big thing after Eagles officials completed a sensational deal to bring Great Britain international Richard Midgley to the North-East. Midgley, pictured right, last night became Fabulous Flournoy’s first summer signing having agreed to become TJ Walker’s replacement on Tyneside and the 24-year-old’s acquisition represents a considerable coup on the club’s part.

The University of California graduate is currently training with the Great Britain squad ahead of the forthcoming European Championships. But Finch is adamant he will become a major star when he launches his BBL career in Newcastle colours next month. “I’m very impressed and to say that he’ll be a big player in the BBL is an understatement,” said the GB coach, who knows the deal Paul Blake has brokered could prove to be a masterstroke. “Richard and I talked about the move to Newcastle when we were in Florida (at a GB training camp last week). He played extremely well last week. So well that, had I known he was in that kind of shape, I would have seriously considered signing him myself (for Mons, Finch’s Belgian club, whose players include the former Eagles favourite Andrew Sullivan).

“He realises that he has to get his professional career off the ground and he understands that the market has shrunk for him after a year out with injury. He has made the right move as far as I’m concerned.

“The BBL has always been a great place to develop your game. Newcastle is a great place for him to be because of the professional structure that they will surround him with. He will have every kind of support he needs coming back off a serious injury. Fab and Paul have proved they know how to look after players.” Having proved that the fitness problems that have beset him in recent times are behind him, Midgley will be the player around whom Flournoy’s bid to win back the club’s Championship crown will be built.

“This is a fantastic first name to add to the roster and we’re thrilled that Richard has agreed to join us,” explained Blake, the club’s managing director, who believes Midgley’s signing ranks alongside the franchise’s biggest-ever deals. I imagine our supporters will be pleased, it’s one of our most satisfying deals to date.

“It highlights our ambition and desire to build on the success of recent years and it’s terrific that one of the best British talents has chosen to play in the BBL this season. “It’s particularly pleasing for our club to be signing yet another British player with real pedigree and also a national team player that all of us are looking forward to watching deliver for club and country.” Although he hails from West Sussex, the Burgess Hill-born player has spent four seasons playing college basketball in California with UCLA’s main rivals in the renowned NCAA Pacific 10 Conference.

His performances have not gone unnoticed in the North-East and, having discovered that Walker had decided to launch his coaching career with Chester Jets this summer, Flournoy’s determination to land his first-choice replacement was steadfast. “Richard is a great addition to our team and he will provide stability in the important point guard position,” said the Newcastle playcaller, who is working hard to revamp his roster as he prepares for the forthcoming BBL campaign. “It took some time to get him, but it was worth the wait for another good English player.”