|January 31, 2020||7:30 pm||BBL Championship||2019-20|
Ian MacLeod has praised Darius Defoe’s professionalism as the veteran forward continues to power through the pain barrier at a pivotal stage of the BBL campaign.
For the second successive Friday the 35-year-old faces a late fitness test as Newcastle Eagles prepare to face Cup winners Worcester tonight.
But MacLeod won’t be surprised if Defoe suits up against the homecourt Wolves as the club’s longest serving player puts his body on the line for the men in black.
“It’s not unusual for players in this league to be carrying knocks at this stage of the season and we’ve got a few,” said Newcastle’s interim head coach.
“But I believe 90% of players who found themselves in Darius’ position last week just wouldn’t have played. That’s how bad it was.
“He’s hurting but he knows how much we need him right now. It’s my job to manage Darius as best I can but if he says he can play then he plays.”
Neither Drew Lasker nor Eddie Matthew will face Worcester this weekend with both guards carrying ankle knocks.
MacLeod is braced for Lasker being absent for several weeks with the Texan on crutches until further notice.
But Matthew could be in contention for the visit of London Lions next Friday.
“There aren’t many of my players who are totally healthy right now,” added MacLeod.
“But both Mike [Morsell] and Sade [Aded Hussein] came through the win against Sheffield without any further concerns.”
Newcastle – like so many of their BBL rivals – are rumoured to be scouting potential new recruits ahead of the final four months of the season.
And the Eagles are well aware that a number of former London City Royals stars are on the market following the collapse of the financially stricken capital franchise.
Whether MacLeod makes a breakthrough before the Lions clash remains to see but beating an in-form Worcester is the immediate challenge.
“You could look at this game either way,” added Fabulous Flournoy’s successor.
“They’ve just won the Cup and so their confidence will be sky high.
“But if the Wolves had lost the final then all the talk would be about bouncing back.
“Matt Newby is a good coach and he’s used to managing players through peaks and troughs so I’m sure they’ll be well prepared.
“It was a difficult game down there for us in the BBL Cup and I expect it to be just as difficult this time around.”
Newcastle’s players still view that painful Cup quarter-final exit as a missed opportunity.
And the Eagles’ roster head south more motivated than most to pick up two valuable league points.
“We don’t dwell on the losses but we don’t forget them either,” added MacLeod.
“We had chances to win that game and we want to be better.
“The win against Sheffield proved the point. We needed to be better against the Sharks and we were.
“That performance was all about pride and this group of players take pride in everything they do.
“There are a lot of winners in this team and you don’t forget how to win. I look at the players I have on court and I see people who have been in winning positions all of their careers.”
Newcastle tip off against Worcester at 7:30pm with all of the action live via the BBL’s YouTube channel.