The 2018/19 Esh Group Eagles Newcastle take to the court tomorrow night for their first competitive pre-season friendly in the Belgian village of Neufchateau which literally translates to Newcastle, writes Jeff King.

There’s no doubting that this is a tough baptism of fire for Head Coach Fab Flournoy’s new roster as not only do they face a game tonight, they will also play less than 24 hours later on the same court as part of their pre-season preparation.

The opposition tonight is Proximus Spirou Charleroi who were the Club that invited The Eagles over to Belgium for this historic first friendly. Newcastle then face Crelan Okapi Aalstar in their second game on Saturday night just under 24 hours after playing Charleroi.

Both teams had excellent seasons last campaign in Belgium’s top-flight. Aalstar finishing 4th whilst Charleroi ended a place above which earned them the right to play in a Champions League qualifier against Hapiol Tel-Aviv of Israel.

The power of the Belgian League is shown by the roster of Spirou in particular who have 4 seasoned American imports who have all played in Europe and another that is coming in fresh from college. They also have sprinkling of full Belgian internationals and an average age of 30 showing how much experience is available to their American Coach Brian Lynch.

But for Head Coach Fab Flournoy it’s not about the opposition it’s about seeing his own team play together and how they perform.

“It’s our first outing and it’s about getting the cobwebs off, experimenting a little bit, figuring things out, seeing what we have and how we’re going to play. I think playing against a different team that doesn’t know us means we can try different things which is a good thing for us.”

“I guess it’s the same for us too going up against a team which we don’t know how they’ll play. We know with the calibre of their team it’s going to be a hard game but they are also inpre-season so it’s going to be really interesting.”

“Even at this stage although we’ve been in less than a week it can give us an indication of what we have and what we can do and where we need to work.”

Some of those adjustments can be done and some of the lessons this tough opening encounter will throw up can be immediately worked on tomorrow night when Aalstar are the opposition. Another strong side and one that has expectations this season.

They are however slightly younger than Charleroi with their mixture of two experienced Americans and two rookies and a roster made up of more up and coming players with an average age of just over 24.

However, once again, Flournoy is more concentrated on his players and what they can get out of this pre-season trip.

“For me as a player it doesn’t matter whether we’re playing at home or abroad, it’s still the first week and we’ll learn from the games. In terms of the guys though it gives us the opportunity to focus in on purely basketball.”

“To be able to get two training sessions in a day and to talk about it without interruption is a great focus for a new team coming together. It’s great because we can look at fitness and conditioning as well as the way we want to play.”

“Equally though it’s only been a couple of days with us all together so there’s plenty of time to learn and move forward. The guys are working really hard and just focusing on basketball. Being away from home is good as we can concentrate on just us and finding consistency and that’s good for us.”

Tonight’s game tips off at 7:15pm UK time and Saturday’s is at 5:30pm. Once the games are over Newcastle return home for a full week’s training and analysis of the trip before going to Sheffield on Friday 7th September for their next pre-season friendly.

Tickets are on-sale now for our home pre-season games on Monday 10th against Team USA Select and Wednesday 12th September when Sheffield Sharks visit us.