On paper it’s hard to make out a case for the Newcastle Eagles tonight as they go into the BBL Championship game against unbeaten Bristol Flyers at The Vertu Motors Arena, writes Jeff King.
The Flyers have played four, won four including victories over Manchester Giants and Leicester Riders. Newcastle meanwhile have played four and lost four in BBL fixtures although do have a win in The BBL Cup after defeating Plymouth on the road.
Thankfully the game is not played on paper and when the teams take to the hardwood tonight there are a few factors that perhaps need to be considered. Firstly all of Bristol’s wins have been at home and this is their first road trip of the season.
Then we have the Eagles once-again changed roster. GB International Kyle Johnson has arrived on Tyneside and is cleared to play tonight. Undoubtedly a player of his talent will see some minutes during the game.
Plus, after a whirlwind arrival, Donovan Johnson will step out on his own court for a home debut having now acclimatised and practiced all week with his new teammates. A luxury he did not have last week before the Sheffield away game.
Then there is Javion Hamlet. The Eagles new scoring sensation who averages 23 points a game and has proven to be one of the most exciting arrivals in The BBL this season.
On a roster that has seen considerable turmoil and change since it’s inception this season he has been the one constant and without doubt the biggest plus point for Marc Steutel’s struggling line-up. He goes again tonight confident his side can grab that first win.
“I’m very confident about the game. I know we’re right there. It’s only been four games and a lot of people are panicking right now. But we’re right there. We’ve been tuning things up in and if we do what we’ve been doing in practice we’re about to get a lot of wins.”
“I’m not sure if Kyle will be playing tonight or not that’s Coaches decision but he’s here and we’ve all met him and he’s practised with us so we’re looking forward to having him with us.”
Hamlet could have been forgiven if he had admitted to having this game etched on his diary as he goes up against former North Texas teammate Thomas Bell III who he played with for two years in college as well as another former North Texas alumini Mike Miller.
“I look forward to every game and not just going up against them but it’s going to be fun to play against them. But I’m just looking forward to every game trying to win and do big things in Newcastle. I haven’t talked with them but I will after the game.”
Hamlet’s form has been eye-catching and perhaps the most promising part of the Eagles season so far but he, himself, is far from satisfied with what he’s shown so far despite the numbers.
“I feel that I and we can go to a whole different level as a team. We just need to get everyone together in rhythm and knowing their roles I’ve got a lot more and I can go to a whole another level.”
“I just want to get a win not just for the team and me I want to get a win for the Newcastle fans who have been very good to me since I came in. They and we just want that win.”
There’s no doubt that Hamlet has hung his hat on Tyneside and wants to succeed in Newcastle and The BBL. A win at home against a Bristol side that are unbeaten would be a good way to start.
Limited tickets are still available from the box office.