Hotshot Louis Sayers has warned Newcastle Eagles’ rivals to ignore the men in black at their peril ahead of tomorrow night’s tasty BBL Cup curtain-raiser against cross-border rivals Glasgow Rocks.
This time last year the Eagles camp took offence at not being talked about as serious contenders for British basketball’s biggest prizes.
And Sayers revealed Ian MacLeod’s men used that ill-advised snub as extra motivation to bag a brilliant and unique behind-closed-doors double.
“This time last year it felt like, for the first time in a long time, Newcastle weren’t in the main conversation when it came to predicting where the big prizes would go,” said the Eagles’ sharp-shooter.
“We all took that personally and look what happened.
“It didn’t take long before it was business as usual.
“Now it feels like every other team we play wants to take our scalp again! But that’s part and parcel of playing for Newcastle Eagles.
“Everyone wants to knock us off the top. That’s just how it is.”
Newcastle overcame the unique challenge of a global pandemic to clinch a famous BBL Cup and Playoff double against all the odds last season.
And once again the league’s most successful franchise is there to be shot at — albeit backed by their loyal army of returning fans.
“When you can’t hear anything from the stands it’s tough to get going,” added Sayers. “Last season was very difficult from that perspective.
“But stepping on court for the USA Select game earlier this month was quite overwhelming and that wasn’t even a full house.
“Newcastle has always been such a tough place to play because of the fans and the atmosphere they generate here.
“I was so looking forward to experiencing that week-in, week-out and to feel what it’s like to have those supporters on my side.
“And our fans couldn’t wait to get back into it judging by the reaction to the USA Select game. Believe me, it was mutual!”
Coach MacLeod and his staff have been working around the clock to get a new-look roster game ready in time for tomorrow’s cross-border clash.
Returning favourite Rahmon Fletcher was the final player to touch down on Tyneside earlier this week following a series of administrative delays in the US.
And Sayers insists the remodelled Eagles can use the backing of a boisterous homecourt crowd to tip off their season in style.
“Everyone is raring to go,” he added. “I think everyone would agree that we’ve not had the ideal pre-season — we’ve only had one game and we’ve been waiting for quite a few of the guys to come in.
“But now that everyone’s here we just can’t wait to get going.
“We have to be ready for that first game and to make sure we hit the ground running.
“It’s going to be great stepping out in front of more than 2,500 fans and having those fans on my side.
“I just can’t wait. It’s a totally different experience playing in a full arena.”
MacLeod is confident of picking from a full team as Gareth Murray’s new-look Rocks head south of the border.
But tomorrow’s clash is likely to feature a constantly rotating Eagles roster as Newcastle’s highly rated playcaller looks to carefully manage a team in transition.
One Rock looking to spoil the Vertu Motors Arena party is Glasgow’s summer signing Jordan Harris.
The University of Georgia graduate is determined to haul last season’s bottom club clear of the BBL basement.
And Harris said: “I only want to win. I really believe we have what it takes to get this team back to where it should be at the top of the ladder.
“We want to give everyone in Scotland a reason to walk around smiling. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”
A limited number of tickets are still on sale for tomorrow’s BBL Cup clash at the Vertu Motors Arena (7.30pm tip). Visit newcastle-eagles.com for details.