Marc Steutel is banking on a double fitness boost ahead of Wednesday’s cross-border clash with Caledonia Gladiators.
Newcastle Eagles bid to win back-to-back fixtures for the first time this season when Gareth Murray’s men head south.
And head coach Steutel has revealed both Ben Mockford and Denzel Ubiaro could bolster the home side’s bench as the duo edge closer towards full fitness.
Mockford is nursing a minor calf injury with the GB guard forced to miss Newcastle’s nailbiting matches against Leicester and Surrey.
And Ubiaro is battling back from a painful Achilles problem after limping out of the Eagles’ defeat to Cheshire earlier this month.
“Denzel has been struggling for a few weeks now but he’s been working around the clock to put himself back into contention,” said Steutel.
“With him in the mix we do have some versatility on our roster and he’s been a big miss.
“I feel as if he gives us a really good option. His energy and disruptive nature — in terms of getting in the opposition’s face — is a real asset.
“Denzel’s been practicing exceptionally well during the last few days and he’s very close.
“He’s been champing at the bit to get on court and go on an extended run in the team.
“He’s such a hard worker and I’m certain that hard work’s going to pay off.”
Ubiaro joined Newcastle in October following five seasons on the south coast with Plymouth City Patriots.
And the busy all-rounder immediately impressed the Eagles’ faithful with his energetic approach off the bench.
But injury stopped the 6ft 3in star in his tracks and Wednesday’s Gladiators revenge mission can’t come soon enough for one of the most popular faces in the Newcastle locker room.
Mockford, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the few survivors during a season of flux and Steutel continues to rely heavily on the former Cheshire and Bristol man’s BBL nous.
The 33-year-old has been a steadying influence at a time when the Eagles need veteran experience.
And Mockford’s return will further strengthen one of the BBL’s most talented backcourts at a time when fellow GB international Kyle Johnson is hitting top form.
“Ben was close for Leicester and Surrey but last weekend just came too soon for him,” added Steutel.
“He’s picked up a minor calf injury but he’s in the mix for the Gladiators game.”
Caledonia edged out Newcastle 81-77 in Glasgow earlier this month as the Eagles failed to manage a tight game down the stretch.
But Steutel took plenty of positives from a typically hard-fought clash and will look for more of the same in the final fixture of 2022.
Newcastle closed down Gladiators’ free-scoring David Sloan for much of the game and impressed as a defensive unit.
“It was a game I felt we should have won and there was nothing between the two teams,” added Steutel.
“But we’re getting better every week and bringing back Ben and Denzel will only make us stronger.”
Limited tickets for Wednesday’s Vertu Motors Arena fixture are still available from the box office, but selling fast!