NEWCASTLE Eagles have failed in their eyebrow-raising bid to sign Scottish Rocks skipper Rob Yanders – but chief Paul Blake says the club still have plenty of “top class” targets in mind for their point guard vacancy, writes MARK DOUGLAS.
The Eagles approached Yanders, widely regarded as the best point guard in the BBL, this week in a move that would have been regarded as a serious statement of intent by last season’s triple-winners.
And although Yanders, who is one-year into a three-year deal in Glasgow, gave the offer serious thought, he has opted to stay on in Scotland and repair his relationship with the Rocks. The Journal understands that moving south of the border would have meant Yanders having to give up one of his lucrative community contracts in Glasgow – something that he was reluctant to do. The approach is unlikely to quell any of the tension that still exists between the two clubs over Lynard Stewart’s controversial switch from the Rocks to the Eagles four years ago. Fab Flournoy leads his charges to Glasgow in the second game of the BBL season.
Yanders’ rejection is undoubtedly a disappointment for the Eagles, but Blake is determined that it will only be a temporary set-back for the league’s most successful club. The Eagles are now weighing up a move for former North Carolina State point guard Tony Bethel – who has played in Belgium and Sweden since graduating in 2006.
The 6ft 2ins Washington native averaged 10 points a game for NC State but injuries and illness have slowed his progress since then. He was turning out for NBA development team the Erie Bayhawks last season in a bid to rebuild his form and fitness and showed signs that he is on an upward curve again.
Bethel is one name on a list that also includes last year’s star turn Reggie Jackson, whose Eagles career seemed dead after he opted not to take up the club’s offer of a one-year deal earlier in the summer. Jackson’s decision, which the Eagles believe was influenced by his agent, angered both Blake and player-coach Flournoy and they decided to end their interest in re-signing a player that they had taken a chance on the previous summer.
But the 25-year-old is yet to be snapped up by another BBL side and conciliatory noises have been coming from both camps over the last seven days.
Whatever happens, Eagles chief Blake is confident that the roster will include a top-class point guard for the forthcoming season – even though that man will not be Yanders. “Along with a number of other clubs, we showed an interest in Rob. He has an excellent reputation in the league and he would have been a player on the level of TJ Walker, who was with us for a number of years,” he said.
“But he has strong roots in Glasgow and we respect his decision not to join us. There are other people we are looking at now, guys with good reputations and guys who can make a genuine impact for us next season.
“And, yes, I wouldn’t rule Reggie out of the equation completely yet. We’re looking elsewhere but he hasn’t signed for anyone yet and we have a vacancy. We know he can improve on where he was last season and we were keen for him to do that at the Eagles. Things have moved on a bit but it is not a definite ‘no’.”
Meanwhile, the club hope to announce new one-year deals for the core of their squad next week as anticipation builds before the start of the campaign. Flournoy has put pen to paper on a two-year deal to complete his Eagles project while the club are optimistic over retaining Stewart, Darius Defoe, skipper Andrew Bridge and Charles Smith.
September: 25 Cheshire Jets (H); 27 Scottish Rocks (A).
October: 2 Leicester Riders (H); 17 Guildford Heat (A); 23 Sheffield Sharks (A); 25 Essex Pirates (H).
November: 1 Plymouth Raiders (A); 7 Sheffield Sharks (H); 8 London Capital (A); 13 Worcester Wolves (H); 20 Everton Tigers (H); 27 Plymouth Raiders (H); 28 Leicester Riders (A).
December: 5 Worthing Thunder (A); 13 London Capital (A); 18 Essex Pirates (A); 27 Guildford Heat (A).
January: 10 Cheshire Jets (A); 22 Worcester Wolves (H); 23 Milton Keynes Lions (A); 30 Worthing Thunder (A).
February: 5London Capital (H); 12 Guildford Heat (H); 20 Worcester Wolves (A); 27 Essex Pirates (A).
March: 5 Everton Tigers (A); 7 Sheffield Sharks (H); 12 Milton Keynes Lions (H); 14 Cheshire Jets (A); 19 Worthing Thunder (H); 26 Scottish Rocks (H).
April: 9 Leicester Riders (H); 17 Everton Tigers (H); 18 Scottish Rocks (A).
To be arranged: Milton Keynes Lions (H), Plymouth Raiders (H), Reading Rockets (A).