NEWCASTLE Eagles have made a flying start to their summer rebuilding job by clinching a one-year deal for key man Joe Chapman.
The BBL’s player of the season has been given a modest pay bump in recognition of his fantastic campaign, but has snubbed likely interest from Europe to play a fourth term on Tyneside. Indeed Chapman was so keen to re-sign that he sought out owner Paul Blake before jetting off to his home town of Chicago for the summer break.
He will now spend the close season working on his fitness, which he feels still has room for improvement after a serious Achilles injury.
Chapman said: “The club looked after me through a tough time with my Achilles injury.
“I think I’ve still got a little way to go to get back to where I was and I wanted to put another strong season in with the Eagles. I’m looking forward to coming back in the new season 100% ready to go.”
Since moving to England, Chapman has enjoyed incredible success as part of three different Eagles sides – as well as impressing with his ultra-professional outlook off the court.
He has scooped seven trophies and won the British Basketball Journalists Player of the Year award twice in three years, only missing out last year after suffering a torn Achilles. It took him a while to hit his stride in the early weeks but the 26-year-old ended up as second top scorer in the BBL last season, averaging 20.2 points per game and he averaged 38.7 per cent from three point range.
Blake is clearly delighted to have secured his return so early in the summer – as well as bringing back one of the “foundations” of Fab Flournoy’s second side to win the clean sweep.
The Eagles owner said: “When a player wins player of the year you’re prepared to lose him so this is a real boost.
“It’s great to be announcing Joe’s return. He is one of the hardest-working players on this team and to come back from the type of injury he had to win player of the year was a fantastic reward for the effort he put in, both on and off the court.
“We have a lot of work still to do to rebuild this team and repeat what we achieved in 2011-12. Joe is certainly a key building block in making it happen again.”
The Eagles acknowledge that there is a chance this could be Chapman’s last season in the North East before he looks to further his career either in Europe or North America. But they are thankful that such a talented player has agreed to a fourth year at the BBL.
“Ultimately, Joe will probably look to Europe and he has the ability to do that – there’s no doubt about that,” Blake said. “But we’re just really glad to have him with us for another year.
“I think he felt he has a bit of unfinished business with us and he wants to get his fitness and his condition up to 100%.
“I think if that was him at 75% last year then we’re going to have a really, really special player on our hands.”
The Eagles are also urging supporters to beat Friday’s deadline for buying ‘early bird’ season tickets. Fans have until May 25 to buy or renew, which they can do by calling the ticket office on 0191 2453880.