Having been starved of seeing their favourite club in action since the pandemic hit back in March 2020, the Newcastle Eagles faithful fanbase have responded in a spectacular way.
Tonight’s pre-season encounter at the Vertu Motors Arena is a complete sell-out.
It will be the Eagles’ biggest ever crowd for a pre-season game as they take on annual visitors USA Select in a game that is always entertaining and will be a great way to tip-off the 2021-22 campaign.
USA Select ran BBL Champions Leicester Riders close on Wednesday night only going down 90-79 with point guard O’Showen Williams who played for Reading Rockets last season contributing 27-points for the visitors.
Composed of athletes that have completed their college-level eligibility and are looking for professional contracts internationally, USA Select tour to play some of the top teams in Europe in a series of exhibition games in hopes to create opportunities for their players.
In the past, these tours have proven to be highly successful and have allowed may players to get their first professional basketball contracts.
The Eagles themselves have benefited from their ranks with John Bryant a member of our first clean sweep team back in 2005-06, Shawan Robinson from our 2006-07 BBL Play-Offs winning side and more recently ex-Eagle C J Gettys came to the UK through the USA Select programme.
USA Select head coach and general manager Sean Kilmartin commented: “I’ve got to admit it, these guys are tough.
“Well coached, amazing ownership group and a world class venue with loyal and very passionate supporters. I love going there!”
Unfortunately, the Eagles are unable to bench their full 2021-22 roster due to delays affecting a number of BBL and WBBL teams this summer.
“We have been pushing hard throughout the off-season to work through significant issues with passport renewals and visa applications process”, said Newcastle Eagles managing director Paul Blake.
“However, it is now clear that unfortunately we won’t have all our summer signings in the UK and on court for Friday’s pre-season tip-off.
“We are continuing to work with the league, along with our fellow BBL and WBBL clubs, to find our way through the processing delays, which are clearly a symptom of the current global travel situation.”
There will be some additional new faces on the Eagles bench though tonight, after the club confirmed the arrival of Jack Burgess and former Plymouth Raiders Head Coach Gary Stronach as additions to Ian MacLeod’s coaching team.
Tip-off is at 7:30pm with a pre-game from 5pm as USA Select’s second team face Team Newcastle University’s NBL Division 1 side. Doors open to spectators for the first time in over 18 months from 4:30pm.