Date Time League Season
September 10, 2023 5:30 pm Pre-Season 2023-24

British basketball’s fiercest cross-border rivalry resumes today as Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles complete their pre-season schedule on Tyneside.

And there’ll be nothing friendly about this afternoon’s clash against Caledonia Gladiators as both sides aim to lay down a marker heading into the Championship campaign.

Marc Steutel’s new-look men in black will bid to stay unbeaten this summer following regulation wins against Derby Trailblazers and the USA Select.

Larry Austin Jr in his first action as an Eagle against Derby (Photo: Gary Foster)

But the Gladiators — fresh from three games against top-class Belgian opposition — will be gunning for victory ahead of their Basketball Champions League qualifier later this month.

“Although I’ve been delighted with the way we’ve been able to recruit this summer, organising the pre-season programme has probably been my biggest stress,” admitted Steutel.

“We really wanted to test ourselves against some big European clubs but for a variety of reasons we just couldn’t make it happen.

“I’m very grateful to Gareth and the Gladiators for picking up the game this weekend and I think it will be a good test for both teams.

“We’ve had two successful run outs where we’ve been able to learn a lot more about each other as players and people but this will be a step up.

“Caledonia have just finished their tournament in Belgium and they’ve put a really interesting roster together.

“I know they’re looking to go to the next level with their Champions League qualifier just around the corner so it should be the ideal game before our Championship season tips off against Sheffield on Thursday.”

Rickey McGill in action in the dominant win over USA Select (Photo: Gary Forster)

In complete contrast to this time last year — when a combination of Steutel’s GB commitments and players failing to settle in created a chaotic opening few weeks — Newcastle look well prepared for the new campaign.

Pre-season fixture frustrations aside, the Eagles have quietly gone about building one of the most impressive rosters ever seen on Tyneside.

And Steutel is confident a talented group bursting with British Basketball League experience is progressing at pace…on and off the court.

“We really wanted to build a ‘team’ this season and the early signs have been really positive,” added the Newcastle and GB head coach.

“We’ve enjoyed a few team building activities together including meals, a visit to an escape room and a trip to St James’s Park.

“The guys were out in force at the 50th celebration dinner on Wednesday and that was a fantastic opportunity for them to learn what this franchise is all about.

The new look Eagles roster enjoying the 50th Anniversary dinner this week (Photo: Gary Forster)

“We’ve been able to outline the club’s values and what we want and expect to achieve and I appreciate the fact that the guys have already bought into that.

“They’re a really engaged group and although that group’s in its infancy I can already see some important relationships developing on and off the court.

“That’s what will get us through some dark, cold travel days in the weeks and months to come.”

Steutel will make a late call on whether to introduce Devin Whitfield and Scott Spencer to the mix against the Gladiators (5.30pm tip) after both players missed Tuesday’s comfortable win against USA Select.

But with this season’s Championship opener against Sheffield Sharks just five days away, the Eagles’ playcaller won’t be taking any unnecessary risks with his new talent.

And it appears unlikely that Darius Defoe will suit up against Caledonia after he injured his left ankle in the early stages of Newcastle’s big win against USA Select.

British basketball’s most decorated player arrived at the club’s 50th birthday bash wearing a protective boot but insisted he’d be back sooner rather than later.