Date Time League Season
December 17, 2023 6:00 pm Men's Championship 2023-24

Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles are sweating on the fitness of key man Darius Defoe ahead of Sunday’s tough trip to Cheshire Phoenix.

The men in black are already missing big man Will Neighbour and all-rounder Scott Spencer as they prepare to face this season’s surprise package.

But Defoe must be a doubt after British basketball’s most decorated player took a nasty bang on the head towards the end of Wednesday’s defeat in Romania.

“We only arrived back in Newcastle late on Thursday night and so we’ll review everything again over the weekend,” explained Eagles head coach Marc Steutel.

“Darius was a little bit sore and beat up after the Voluntari game but he did what Darius always does and put his body on the line for this club.

“I’m disappointed because I don’t think he was protected enough on Wednesday. We needed Darius to lead from the front and he did that — but he needed more protection.

“I’m hopeful he’ll be ready for Sunday because we really need him right now.”

Former Cheshire favourite Neighbour and US wing Spencer both face an extended spell on the sidelines following surgery this month.

And although it is understood Newcastle bosses have explored short term reinforcements, Steutel will turn to his eight fit senior professionals this weekend.

“Will and Scott are a big miss for us,” added the Eagles’ playcaller. “Will was providing us with exactly what we needed just before his injury flared up.

“He was becoming a really impactful player for us in terms of his spacing and ability to shoot the ball.

“We saw glimpses of what Scott can do at Surrey and his shooting and rebounding will be a big plus when he’s back.

“But we’ve planned for this situation and it’s an opportunity for the rest of the group to up their game and influence different areas.

“This weekend is not about the absence of Will and Scott. It’s about every single one of the eight professional players in our group and about them being the best they can possibly be.

“It’s about them committing and fighting consistently across all four quarters.”
Newcastle face a Phoenix side that pushed league leaders London all the way in the Lions’ den on Friday night.

And the Eagles find themselves stuck in a mini rut following three losses on the bounce.

But Steutel was delighted with Wednesday’s spirited display against a CSO Voluntari side fighting for the title back home.

“There were so many positives to take out of that game and I don’t think we were lacking in any department,” Great Britain’s head coach.

“We were up against a club competing in a different realm financially and we played very well in many different areas.

“I thought we competed well defensively and got a lot of the looks we wanted at the offensive end.

“We got ourselves in a winning position and tried to take care of business but I just didn’t feel we got the rub of the green.

“A couple of tough decisions went against us at key times and that was probably the game.

“But we gave a good account of ourselves in a tough environment against a team that’s resourced very differently to most British clubs.

“With a couple of tweaks we’ll continue to develop as a team and we’re going to be in a good sport.

“We head to Cheshire determined to challenge them on their home court and compete in the right way.”

The Nix are Newcastle’s last opponents before Christmas but the Eagles are back in action at the Vertu Motors Arena on December 28 when Enea Stelmet Zastal Zielona Gora visit the Vertu Motors Arena.