Fab Flournoy says he will demand even more from his quiet talisman Darius Defoe in the BBL title run-in.
Defoe led the way in Newcastle Eagles’ crucially important defeat of Leicester Riders and will be a key figure in their weekend battles with Sheffield Sharks and Glasgow Rocks – both must-win games if the Tynesiders are to stay in touch with current league leaders Worcester Wolves. Sharks are the visitors to Sport Central tonight.
The forward’s contribution this season was predicted by Flournoy before the campaign started and he is delighted to see one of his “veteran” players coming to the fore as the important fixtures stack up. But the Eagles player-coach wants to see even more from a player who rarely gets the plaudits he deserves for his consistent contributions.
“Darius is playing really, really well this season but the reality of the situation is that as his coach I have to stay on top of him to make sure he continues to do the things he does,” he said. “He’s a quiet guy who goes about his business very effectively but the reality is that this team needs more from him. He’s a big personality and he’s a big character.
“I almost don’t want to talk about him too much because it alerts other teams. He has such a big, important role in games and he does that dirty but essential work that we need someone to do to win the games like the Leicester one.
“As a coach I’m actually quite glad that he goes by quietly and that teams don’t always know that he is so important. In my opinion I think he deserves more awards and recognition for the work he does because he is a grafter.”
Defoe and Flournoy have worked together for the best part of a decade, having seen highs and lows in that time period. Now he is making the most of his role as a veteran campaigner for the club, and racked up 24 points as the Eagles secured a very narrow and important win against Leicester. “Darius was with me in the start. People forget but a lot of players wouldn’t sign for me in the early days, they didn’t think I could coach,” he said.
“Darius stuck with me and developed himself over 10 to 12 years. Believe me, he could play in Europe or one of the top leagues but he has chosen to develop with us. He’s absolutely crucial to what we do at the Eagles.”
Flournoy is looking forward to pitting his wits against a Sheffield side that he believes are one of four with a realistic shot at the BBL title this season. Worcester, Leicester and his own team are the other sides he’s pinpointed – while not yet writing off the chances of the London Lions.
Last weekend’s win against Leicester was an important victory for the title bid, but also to illustrate that the Riders, who beat Newcastle in the BBL Cup, do not have the Indian sign over their North East rivals again this term.
“It was an important win. We dropped the Cup game but that was a match in and of itself. We played a great game but it just wasn’t to be on that occasion,” he said.
“It was important because we hadn’t played them in the league yet and the game really mattered.
“There was a lot of emotion in that game, and the fact we had home court advantage was crucial too, because we needed to make that count which, thankfully, we were able to do.” Flournoy also brushed off the clashes that broke out at the end of the game.
The player-coach said: “When you step over the white line you are going into battle and it got heated, as you would expect when the game is as important as this one was.
“The fans of both sides might not realise that we talk to each other after games like that and there is a huge amount of respect for the Riders from myself and everyone else at Newcastle.”