After a stellar five-year college career at the University of Manitoba, Canadian AJ Basi was ready to turn from senior Bison to fledgling Eagle as the Winnipeg native signed on the dotted line for Esh Group Eagles Newcastle, writes Jeff King.

Upon signing that contract, he made no secret of the fact that he felt Christmas had come early and that he was excited to be coming to Newcastle to begin his professional career. Almost three weeks on and with three pre-season games under his belt how’s that excitement holding?

“I’m still just as excited if not actually a little more. Before there was a little bit of nervousness as well as excitement just to get here and get started but now that I see what our team can do, what we’re capable of and how I fit in to that, that little piece in the puzzle, I’m even more excited.”

“I can’t wait to play in this ‘tournament’ in London this Sunday and then get the season rolling on the 29th at Leeds.”

Although AJ is Canadian he qualifies for a British passport through his Mother who was born and bred in England and he has family scattered all over England that he’s hoping to see and catch-up with during the season.

“I’ve already had some family drive up to our pre-season games and it was great to see them and hang out with them after the games. I think my family over here is almost as excited as me to see how my season goes.”

So, from college veteran and leader to a rookie professional is almost like starting over for the likeable young man with a great work ethic but he’s enjoying the experience so far.

“I’m very impressed so far as I didn’t know what to expect. I knew when I signed for Newcastle they were a top-notch organisation. They’ve already shown me that’s well deserved as I’ve been looked after so well ever since I got here.”

“Coach Fab or even Fab as although he’s my coach he’s also my team-mate, reaches out and makes sure we’re all good. The group of guys we’ve got here are great too. We’ve gelled quickly on and off the court and hang out together a lot which is good for us to grow.”

“There’s a lot of differing personalities but everyone seems to get along very well. We’re all cracking jokes with each other and we’re not just a basketball team we’re already looking like a group of good friends.”

The Betway All-Stars Basketball Tournament which is live on Sky Sports TV this coming Sunday is the first meaningful competitive test for AJ and his team-mates and it promises to be quite different to what he, and they, have played in before.

“It’s got some funky rules in it that’s for sure and it’s definitely not your regular basketball game. I think we have a few guys already eyeing up that 5-point line and with us being a quick team, subs on the run should suit us too and we have to look to turn that to our advantage.”

AJ may be a rookie but he talks very well and clearly has a desire to do well for himself, the Club and the fans.

“It’s a great community I’ve come in to and the fans have been so welcoming and warm towards all the guys. They have already given me a special feeling and it would be great to reward them for that welcome with a big win on Sunday.”