Newcastle Eagles have discovered their identity says Fab Flournoy

Fab Flournoy thinks his Newcastle Eagles side are emerging from the BBL’s two toughest months a much stronger unit

Newcastle Eagles player coach Fab Flournoy
Newcastle Eagles player coach Fab Flournoy

Flournoy has eased off the number of training sessions and ramped up the number of video sessions in a bid to prevent injuries during January and February, the two months that laid waste to their roster last year.

And he feels that his team are reaping the rewards, having beaten Leicester, Glasgow and Sheffield in top-of-the-table clashes since the turn of the year. They face another tough game tomorrow, welcoming London Lions to Sport Central, but Flournoy is confident.

“With this team I have been concentrating on January and February because those two months are the toughest months in the BBL season,” he said.

“It’s cold, there are a barrage of games and the atmosphere after Christmas is flat for the players. If they have gone home for Christmas they might have lost the focus or fitness that they had before then, if they hadn’t gone home this is the time when a bit of homesickness kicks in.

“The community aspect of it is hard and has started to kick in by this month as well. Players are going from here to there and the travel is tough when it is factored in to everything else. I looked at the schedule that we had and there are hard games against Glasgow and Plymouth in our fixture programme so I anticipated that these would be the months when things crept up on us.

“If you look at the facts, most injuries occur in January and February and it is something that has hurt us.

“So I have been concentrating on trying to bring our team together in those months. I have cut our practices down and have concentrated on the little key things that might make a difference.

“I have concentrated on player development and concentrated on individual play and I feel that has benefited us this month. I’m happy with the reaction of the players.”

Flournoy has been keen to work with the players to develop the team’s identity, and with so many new stars on his roster he feels that familiarity between team-mates could be key during the BBL title run-in.

Luckily for the Eagles player-coach, he has seen signs that his players are starting to understand what it takes to play for Newcastle – and are also developing their own games. Despite critics having written them off, he believes they are well-placed for a shot at the title when the winter melts into the spring.

“Everyone is telling us what we aren’t but I know what we are,” he said.

“I have to give a lot of respect to our guys during these two months because they have been absolutely tremendous. I look through the team and Charles has been fantastic in that leadership role, Darius is taking on that leadership role as well.

“You have Scott and Malik and they are starting to look like guys who are in their second or third season in the BBL, not their rookie year here.

“And I have to really take my hat off to Drew Lasker and Paul Gause because they are not really orthodox point guards. They are combo guards but they have worked their hearts out this season to learn the responsibilities of that role.

“Stu (Thomson) is getting a full season underneath his belt and is really coming into his own. I think this team is building an understanding and really and truly we now know what they are capable of.

“There is a confidence there and while that does not guarantee we will not wins games, it helps to give us more of an identity. We know who we are, we know what we can do and that is really pleasing.

“We can defend games, we can out-score teams when we need to but the pleasing thing for me is that we are not searching for an identity. I’m not sure whether that is true for every team in the BBL and that is a good thing for us.”

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