FAB Flournoy has warned his Newcastle Eagles that they are coming up against “European class” opponents in Worcester Wolves, writes MARK DOUGLAS.
FAB Flournoy has warned his Newcastle Eagles that they are coming up against “European class” opponents in Worcester Wolves.
Sixth-placed Worcester are out of the BBL title race and made little impact in the Cup earlier this year, but Flournoy has seen enough to convince him that they will be a major force in the second half of the season.
The New Yorker reckons they are the biggest and most powerful side in the league – and has hailed their starting five as good enough to make a real run in Europe. But he still fancies his injury-hit side to progress from the BBL Trophy quarter-final tonight.
“This is a quarter-final but it could be the toughest game we play this season,” Flournoy admitted.
“I look at Worcester and it is a team I like a lot.
“They are a top-three team, no doubt – and the only reason they are not in the top three is because of issues they had with bringing players in over the summer and work permits and the rest.
“They are a tough team, they’re a good unit and they’re playing for each other. More importantly, they’re a very big team – perhaps the biggest in the league. For me – and I very rarely say this – they have a five which could play in Europe.
“They have a handful of Lithuanian guys and two seven-footers. Not just one – two. They’ve got size, leadership, a recognised point guard. This is a good side that we’re talking about.” Having briefed his team about the danger of the Wolves, Flournoy still believes that his team – even minus the metronomic presence of Damon Huffman – are capable of making progress. Flournoy will wait until the last minute before deciding whether to include himself in the mix but is sure they have enough, even without him. He points to Joe Chapman and Charles Smith as two of the reasons for optimism.
“Everybody is talking about Charles – quite rightly – but Joe was outstanding on Sunday as well,” he said.
“Joe had a triple double and with the fuss over Charles, it kind of got missed. If I was a rival team in the BBL, I’d be worried about Joe Chapman hitting form and I’d be wary of the danger of Charles Smith.
“We might be missing one or two injured players but we are still happy with where we are. We’re still extremely competitive.”
In a season where there have been one or two straightforward games for the Eagles, tonight’s Sport Central clash should be one to savour. Flournoy is all for a more competitive BBL and has welcomed the rise of the Wolves, who are managed by the “underrated” Paul James.
“PJ is an underrated coach. I think he is something like the third most successful coach in British basketball history in terms of wins,” he said.
“He’s won at Thames Valley and he’s won at Guildford so it was only a matter of time before he won at Worcester as well. Speaking from a personal point of view, you always know that you’re going to get a tough game when your team come up against a Paul James team.
“Worcester look like a tough, tough team.”
TONIGHT’S game is close to a sell-out, so to guarantee your seat, call the club’s box office on 0191 245 3880 or log on to www.newcastle-eagles.com/