NEWCASTLE Eagles are close to clinching deals for last season’s key men Darius Defoe and Charles Smith.
The Eagles have held talks with the pair over the last seven days and after receiving positive noises from the experienced duo, believe they could be able to announce something by the end of the week.
It is a sizeable boost for Fab Flournoy after the loss of last season’s British player of the year Andrew Thomson – who has signed for ambitious French club La Rochelle.
The Eagles were hoping to keep as many of last year’s clean sweep side together as possible but have found interest in their players has intensified after their all-conquering BBL campaign.
And with Paul Blake keen to keep costs under control and ensure the Eagles’ future survival, the club’s budget is bound to be stretched by the wage demands of the league’s free agents.
Despite that, the Eagles are now optimistic of bringing back Defoe and Smith – who have vital experience in the Newcastle set-up. London-born Defoe has been playing senior basketball for the Eagles since 2004 while Smith began his latest spell on Tyneside in 2007 – and has won two league MVP awards in that time.
Blake said: “We’re now waiting to hear from Darius but we met with him on Friday and we’re now just going through the process of finalising everything.
“He certainly seems keen to stay but we need to hammer some details out first. We will continue those conversations but we’re hopefully of getting a resolution in the next day or so.
“As for Charles, he has had several conversations with Fab over the last two to three days. It has moved forward slightly from last week in that we now know what we have to do to keep him at the club. Now it is up to us to try and get as close to that as possible.”
The painstaking process of recruiting a team has not been an easy one for the Eagles this season.
As a coach Flournoy prefers to retain the foundation of the previous season’s side but with the increased competition he will now look at snapping up a few of the many high-quality free agents currently searching for clubs.
Since news of the Eagles losing Thomson has emerged they have been inundated with offers, but Blake is fully aware that new arrivals tend to take time to settle.
Blake believes that is all part of the problem of enjoying success as a team, but admits it is an unnecessary distraction. “It has been harder this year but if truth be told it is getting harder every year to retain the core of the players in our side,” he said.
“It is always more difficult when we have won everything.
“For whatever reasons more people from outside the club are beginning to look at our players and that just increases the competition and makes life more difficult for us.”