Fab Flournoy feels the next fortnight will be the litmus test for his high-flying Newcastle Eagles team.
His new-look team have piled on the points against the BBL’s lightweights, brushing aside Manchester Giants and Birmingham Knights with two impressively offensive performances last weekend.
But the player-coach is bracing them for a step up in class when they face old rivals Glasgow Rocks tonight – before a mouth-watering Sport Central meeting with early pace-setters Worcester Wolves next weekend.
Flournoy knows that there will be “fireworks” on Friday and thinks a stern examination awaits against Worcester, but he is ready for both in the coming days.
“This is a big, big test for us. Glasgow Rocks are our big rivals and I predict this will be one of those good, old-fashioned Eagles versus Glasgow Rocks games,” he said.
“We always have fireworks when our teams clash and then we have Worcester the weekend after, who are right at this moment playing extremely well. They are still the only unbeaten team in the BBL.
“This next fortnight will be a huge test for us and even more so because it is one game a week there will not be back-to-back games. Whoever loses this Friday will have to deal with it for a week and that is always more difficult. We will learn a lot about ourselves and what kind of team we are over the next two weeks.”
There is no doubt that the new-look Eagles have potential and in Scott Martin, Malik Cooke and Paul Gause they have added real firepower to the Newcastle mix.
Flournoy has been delighted with the way they have settled in and Cooke’s early form – which included a breathtaking 32-point haul in the Manchester game last weekend – has raised hopes that the Eagles have a new fan favourite in the making.
Flournoy’s job at this point is to bring supporters and the roster back down to earth after their fine start, which has seen Cooke and company hailed for their impressive starts.
“It is not meant as a criticism of Manchester Giants or Birmingham Knights but one team is in its second year in the league and another is in its first,” he said.
“I think we are definitely going to have to show more against both Worcester and Glasgow because they are well-established teams with well-established players playing under a well-established coach. Worcester have been phenomenal and I fully expect Glasgow to be similar.
“Rocks have experience and they know the importance of this game to their fans so it is going to be a big test for our new players who have never experienced the fireworks of a Rocks versus Eagles match.
“I have been asked whether this is an exciting team to watch but I don’t get excitement from the way that they have played in those games. The excitement for me is working with the guys towards the end product because that really could be something special if we continue to progress and show the same commitment to learning.
“It is fun for people to watch because we are putting points on the board and that is how some people will measure our progress. But there is no question that these next two games are going to be the biggest test of our season so far.”
Flournoy is also urging his players to put on a show as they star on TV for the first time. The BBL inked a TV deal with British Eurosport this season and the Rocks clash will be the first opportunity for Newcastle to flex their muscles in front of the cameras.
“It always adds excitement to the game when it is on television and this is our first opportunity to show what we’re about on TV,” he said.
“I’m not surprised they have picked this game for TV because this is always a battle and there is always a real excitement factor about these Eagles-Rocks games. I really do think this is going to be a battle.”