REIGNING league champions Newcastle Eagles have made an early statement of intent to any rivals eyeing their crown after moving swiftly to re-sign BBL Player of the Year Lynard Stewart.
The move will delight the club’s supporters who had their season ended on a sour note after failure in the play-offs. And it also stops any speculation over the future of the player dead in its tracks before the summer rumour mill gets going in earnest.
Stewart will undoubtedly have been on the shopping lists of a number of clubs both at home and abroad, and it is a real coup for managing director Paul Blake and player-coach Fab Flournoy to have got their man to commit so early. But that is typical of Stewart.
The forward was an instant hit both on and off the court after making the move from Euphony Bree in Belgium last summer and continues to grow in popularity within the locker room and amongst fans.
Blake is pleased to retain the player, hardly surprising after his astonishing first campaign in an Eagles vest when, at his peak, he recorded double-doubles in seven consecutive games.
The club owner also feels that Stewart re-signing is testament to the pulling power of the club and shows the continued ambition of the title winners.
“We are so happy to have re-signed Lynard for a second year and it was always going to be a top priority for Fab and myself,” said Blake. “Getting it done so quickly, ahead of what will be a busy summer as always, just goes to show that we intend to continue moving forward after our fantastic league campaign last season.”
“We were proud to see Lynard get the BBL Player of the Year award as well as other accolades from our own players and fans, so knowing that he will be back with us again next season gives us all a massive boost. It also sends out the message that the best players want to stay at our club and that is important for everyone both on and off the court.”
“We have no intention of giving up our league championship next year in what will be another fiercely competitive season, which is terrific for the league from our perspective. I think this is a great marker for us to put down right at the outset.”
Flournoy, meanwhile, has recently given his assurance that the Eagles are the only club for him in British basketball, and with Stewart now on board, the foundations for more success are beginning to be put in place even earlier than in previous years.
With Stewart averaging 15.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, it is now up to Flournoy to find someone to provide him with the ammunition he needs – and that means finding a capable point guard. That was the one thing he never managed to do last season, and this could well be the playcaller’s pivotal decision this summer.