Newcastle Eagles’ line-up will consist of something old, something new, next season but Dave Forrester has promised the familiar style will be the same as they try to squeeze a better team from the same budget.
Although only the former has been confirmed, Drew Lasker, Charles Smith and Darius Defoe are expected to return for the defence of the Eagles’ British Basketball League title. Forward Andy Thomson will be back hoping for a repeat of his brilliant 2011-12 campaign.
But there will be new guards in Ricky Taylor and Rahmon Fletcher, plus one or two more still to arrive.
“Every team’s different, particularly when you’re bringing in new players who have not played in the league before,” said assistant coach Forrester. “You have to adapt to them, rather than just expecting them to adapt to you.
“It looks like we’ll have a lot of familiarity in the front court next season, but a new back court to get used to with two new guards.
“A lot will depend on how quickly those guards get up to speed.”
Forrester does not anticipate any major problems on that score.
The Americans have both spent time on the Continent, ironing out some of the teething problems college graduates face in the professional game. Twenty-five-year-old Fletcher came highly recommended by former Eagle Damon Huffman after two years playing in the Netherlands for Weert.
But it is their latest signing Taylor who comes with the more colourful cv.
The 24-year-old spent four years studying accountancy at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he finished sixth in their all-time basketball scoring charts with over 1,600 points.
He averaged more than 38% from the three-point line in his solitary season with German Pro A side Finke Baskets Ehingen.
Taylor doubles as the self-styled Minister of Basketball, a licensed minister at the Greater Community Church of Chattanooga Church of God in Christ who runs summer camps preaching the word of Jesus alongside full-court presses. In his spare time he plays the drums, and he is a school coach and author.
Regardless of personnel, Forrester has promised the Eagles will play the way Fabulous Flournoy’s teams always do when they tip off at home to Worcester Wolves on September 26.
“We’re going to be fast and athletic as usual and playing at a fast pace,” he said. “That’s the way Fab always wants us to play.
“You try not to stand still. In our league is everyone’s on one-year contracts so when you win the league it’s quite realistic for players to expect to get a better contract the next year. We’ve a similar budget to last year, so we’ve got to try to fit a better team around the same budget.
“We’ve lost Malik (Cooke) because he got an excellent offer in Hungary (from BC Kormend) which we couldn’t possibly match but hopefully bringing Andy Thomson back is a sign that we can improve. He’s a really good British player and at 30 he’s at the peak of his professional life.
“We were very, very consistent last year but we didn’t win our two finals.
“Everyone comes in wanting to win, Fab’s never going to be satisfied with anything else, but it’s a process of starting with a new team and building it up to a point where they trust each other and they build a rhythm of their own.
“Basketball is such a fluent game with only five guys on the court at any one time so it’s how you react with each other. In football it’s more about units within the team, but in basketball everyone on the court and on the bench has to be in synch with each other.”