Eagles’ play-caller Fabulous Flournoy will be fighting on all fronts on Sunday night when he welcomes former teammate TJ Walker to Tyneside in the BBL Cup. The Newcastle veteran will take time-out from his frantic league schedule as he attempts to guide his roster to a semi-final spot in British Basketball’s first showcase competition.
It is the second time in four weeks that the Cheshire Jets take to the Metro Radio Arena court as Walker settles into his new role as player-coach. But Flournoy is adamant that he will not allow his team to take their foot off the pedal – despite the return of Tyneside’s favourite son.
‘We had a lot of emotion last time TJ came,’ said the New Yorker. ‘It was his first visit back and it was a very special moment.”
‘But this time will be just as bad after the club decided to retire his jersey. It’s a warm welcome for a player who had done a lot for this club. All that will go out the window because this is our first bite at silverware for this year. This cup is a lot different to what we do in the league. This is a one-off ball game, and you need to produce in these games.’
‘We can’t afford to take our foot off the gas. If you don’t show up to play, and you are not firing on all cylinders you are out of the competition.’
The last time Cheshire travelled to Newcastle they were unfortunate to be shaded out of the contest by a slim three-point margin. And Flournoy is amidst his most prosperous start to a league campaign in an Eagles’ jersey after sealing nine consecutive wins.
The Eagles’ play-caller has given his first hint that his team might be in contention to repeat the clean-sweep campaign of two years ago – if they can fend off other BBL franchises trying to replicate that very feat.
‘It might look like we have the opportunity for a clean sweep, but there are a few other teams who have that same chance,’ said Flournoy. ‘Guildford are doing well, and so are Milton Keynes, Plymouth and Sheffield. We are the only people who have done it so everyone thinks that we should be able to do it again, but everyone has the same chance.’
After sweating on the injuries of a number of his key on-court heroes, Flournoy will be relieved to find his patched-up team intact. Skipper Andrew Bridge looks set to play as he recovers from knee problem, whilst Lynard Stewart is likely to feature despite twisting his ankle a fortnight ago.
However, the main headache for Flournoy is the tendonitis that threatens to rule out Jeremy Hyatt. He left the court midway through last week’s win over Plymouth and Flournoy will wait on a doctor’s report to see if he will play.