NEWCASTLE Eagles have handed Charles Smith an ultimatum as they look to make quick progress on finalising the rest of their roster for next season.
After the loss of Andrew Thomson to French side La Rochelle the focus now moves to Smith – who will be the creative fulcrum of the side if he stays.
But the veteran forward is likely to have other options away from Tyneside and may yet decide to have a last crack at European basketball as he enters the late stages of a decorated career.
If he did that, the Eagles would have few complaints about Smith looking to maximise his earning potential while also playing in one of the Continent’s big leagues.
But they would like to know sooner rather than later – and have no appetite to let the saga drag on until the eve of the season, like it did last year when he finally committed to the Eagles in August.
“Charles is still talking to Fab,” Eagles owner Paul Blake revealed.
“It goes without saying that we’d like to bring Charles back – he was fantastic for us last season and Charles has always been one of the core members of our organisation when he’s been here.
“We’d absolutely like to bring him back. In Fab and Dave’s mind, Charles is number one in terms of a player they would like to bring back.
“Fab has given Charles a date he would like to get a decision from him but I’m sure Charles will want to look at what other options he’s got.
“I think from Fab’s perspective he would like to get these things sorted out as soon as he can – especially with the Olympics coming up and his commitments to the BBC.”
Smith was set to retire last summer before announcing his intention to return to Newcastle and complete some “unfinished business”.
Having helped the club bounce back from their barren season to clinch every single trophy in the BBL, the Eagles know there is a possibility that he will look elsewhere.
“Charles probably thought it was all over at times last summer but he has come back and won everything with us,” Blake said.
“That was what he came back to Newcastle to do and now he has done that, maybe he will look at a fresh challenge.
“I’m just speculating really, because we don’t know what Charles wants to do at the moment but of course we have to plan for every eventuality.”
Meanwhile, Thomson has warned the Eagles that the newly-formed Manchester Giants will be a force in the coming years.
The Giants are one of three new franchises for next season’s BBL, with the East London Royals joined by the Essex Leopards as new teams for the forthcoming campaign.
Thomson feels that the Manchester name, combined with the presence of Jeff Jones, will make them a team to look out for in the coming years.
“The Eagles have been the benchmark for every club in the BBL in terms of what they do on the floor and off it,” said Thomson.
“The Giants can do the same. Speaking to Jeff and seeing the work they have been doing, I think they will be strong and be around for a while.”