Newcastle Eagles feel they have landed a real potential crowd-pleaser in the form of new arrival Malik Cooke.
The 6ft 6ins guard arrives on Tyneside with a fantastic college career at the University of South Carolina behind him and experience of European basketball in Germany last year.
He is big, athletic and exactly the kind of dominant player that Fab Flournoy wants on his roster to challenge the rise of Leicester Riders, who ruled the BBL roost last season.
Cooke is likely to be followed to Sport Central by Paul Gause, who took to social media earlier this week to confirm that he would be returning to Newcastle next season.
The Journal understands the contract has not been finalised, but there is a desire on the part of both parties to broker a deal after the American dropped his wage demands to secure the BBL return that he was hoping for.
His explosive talent at point guard will be well complemented by Cooke and Scott Martin as the Eagles look to match the size and strength of Leicester in what should be an intriguing title tussle.
The Eagles were sold on 23-year-old Cooke by a college career which saw him leading the scoring for the University of South Carolina in his senior year with 12.6 points per game.
He shot 33.3 per cent from the three-point line and boasted a better record in his first year in professional basketball in Germany.
His senior season consisted of a number of notable performances, including scoring 21 points against the then nationally-ranked second team Ohio State, which contained future NBA prospects Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft.
Assistant coach Dave Forrester is excited about the signing of Cooke, who spent last year at German club TV Langen.
“Malik really ticked all the boxes for us,” he said. “He was a team leader at South Carolina, a very efficient scorer with good size and athleticism and also obtained valuable European experience in Germany last year.
“When you have the chance to sign a guy who performed so well against such a high level of competition in the South Eastern Conference it is not the hardest decision in the world to do
“So, in Malik and Scott Martin I am confident that we have signed two high- character players who have played at an exceptional level within college basketball.”
Cooke is due in the North East before the start of the Eagles’ pre-season camp in September and believes they have the attributes to return to the top of British basketball.
He said: “The Eagles roster looks talented and tough with a lot of different weapons, I’m really looking forward to being a part of this group and making a run for the title.”
If Gause signs on the dotted line this week it will virtually complete the Eagles roster for the forthcoming season. Charles Smith and Darius Defoe have agreed in principle to return, giving Newcastle a core of established players at the heart of the roster.
They intend to recruit a number of talented juniors, but the signing of Stuart Thomson and Cooke this week has seen the Eagles follow up their promise of injecting more strength-in-depth into the team.
Flournoy said: “We have been looking for the right type of player to come into the guard rotation, to complement (Drew) Lasker and our anticipated point guard signing.
“We have looked a large number of guys coming out of strong traditional programmes but felt Malik had the size, athleticism and determination that we are looking for this season.”