|January 1, 2023||5:00 pm||BBL Championship||2022-23|
Javion Hamlet is convinced Newcastle have started to turn the corner in their bid to transform a losing season into a winning campaign.
The BBL’s breakout star locks horns with two-time MVP and former Eagles favourite Rahmon Fletcher in Manchester tonight.
But Hamlet heads to the North West ready to add to his Hollywood highlights reel and put on a show against one of the league’s all-time legends.
Newcastle won back-to-back fixtures for the first time this season after defeating Caledonia Gladiators on Wednesday.
And Hamlet insisted: “We’re getting better every day in practice and it definitely feels like we’re getting there [turning the corner].
“At the beginning of the season we were struggling to close out games but now we’re persevering and getting those wins down the stretch.
“I feel there’s been real progress.
“We are a new team and we’re learning more about each other every day.
“Now we’re clicking at the right time — when games are on the line. It’s about maintaining the momentum in Manchester.”
Something Newcastle won’t have on their side this weekend is another capacity crowd.
The Vertu Motors Arena was packed to the rafters for the final fixture of 2022 and support for Marc Steutel’s men has remained strong in spite of some heavy homecourt losses.
“Having a sellout Newcastle crowd behind us can make the difference,” agreed Hamlet.
“Our supporters have tried to pull us through in the last few weeks and we feed off that energy.
“We love them getting off their feet and riling us up. We love our fans.
“I’ve played in front of big crowds during my college career but this Newcastle crowd is one of the best.
“It’s one of the best environments I’ve ever played in and it’s been packed every game.
“The people have shown real loyalty to us and we appreciate that.”
Newcastle sits ninth in the BBL with eight-placed Manchester occupying the final playoff berth.
But a third Eagles win on the bounce would propel Steutel’s side to within touching distance of Fletcher and co.
“We can catch Manchester and then move on,” insisted Hamlet.
“We’re going down there to compete at a high level and if we do that then there’s no reason why we can’t come back with a win.
“There’s a real team spirit here now and when things aren’t going right we rally behind each other and keep spirits up.
“That’s really paid off in the last few weeks.”
Hamlet has maintained his consistency throughout a stunning rookie season with the Eagles and has secured his place on a roster that’s been through a total reboot since September.
The US shooter carried Newcastle through an unconvincing first half against the Gladiators and pocketed a game high 34 points once his team-mates joined the party.
Hamlet leads the league in scoring with an average of 21 points per game — ahead of London’s ex-NBA star Sam Dekker and Manchester’s dangerman Tajh Green.
Tonight’s clash tips off at 5pm with the action screened live and for free via the BBL YouTube channel.