HIS Newcastle Eagles team might be gunning for a perfect ten wins in a row this weekend, but Fab Flournoy is adamant the BBL has never been more competitive.
The Eagles welcome second-placed Worcester Wolves to Sport Central tonight with their 100% record on the line – before a trip to rock-bottom Guildford Heat on Sunday that Flournoy warns is fraught with danger.
Gavin Love’s Worcester have been something of a surprise package this season but not to Flournoy, who reckons the Midlands outfit are one of four teams with a definite chance of tilting for the title this season.
“This is a tough year in the BBL – a very tough year,” he said.
“There are four teams who are extremely competitive but below that there are a lot of teams that are growing and improving all the time.
“A lot of teams are coming together and playing as a unit. Maybe last year teams had one or two star players but the rest were supporting casts – this year every team is strong as a unit.
“And on top of that the coaches are coaching very well. This is, in my opinion, a vintage year for the young British coaches.
“I look throughout the league and their are good guys doing a great job – Paul James, Gavin Love, Rob Paternostro spring to mind first and foremost, but then there is Sterling Davis at the Rocks as well.
“We are seeing the emergence of teams probably below the established top four who are beginning to make a real impact. That’s a big thing within our league – a huge development.”
Worcester’s emergence follows the pattern of careful recruitment put in place by head coach James – a good friend of Flournoy’s.
A fine start to the season was slightly spoiled by last weekend’s BBL Cup semi-final defeat to Plymouth, which came after an unexpected home court thrashing against the Raiders. They responded with an impressive win at the Plymouth Pavilions that restored pride and that is the sort of performance that Flournoy will be guarded against.
“This weekend is another big test for us,” he said.
“Worcester are second placed, they’re playing well and they’ve got great players too.
“They look like a match for anyone this year.
“They finished last year well and they have improved – and Paul James is pulling out all of the stops.
“I know PJ well and he will have his team prepared for this game. We need to sprint out of the blocks because they will be ready to go.”
This weekend’s assignment also pits the Eagles against a Guildford Heat side that Flournoy believes is much more competitive than their lowly league position suggests.
Yet to win a game, the Heat are suffering for summer recruitment problems that saw them leave it late to assemble their current roster.
But Flournoy is predicting a steep improvement in 2012 from Guildford. “Guildford are a very talented basketball team. There are two teams in this league whose records do not reflect their ability – Guildford and Milton Keynes,” said Flournoy.
“They are both really, really good teams but Guildford are extremely dangerous.
“They had a good team before they made their additions and in bringing in Copeland and Lasker, they’ve now got an excellent roster.
“They will improve – make no mistake about that.
“It’s a big shot because of the bad start they’ve had but they could finish anywhere between third and fourth in the league, they are that good.”