Ahead of his side's clash with the Essex Pirates tomorrow evening, Newcastle Eagles player-coach Fabulous Flournoy has paid tribute to the work of the Southern based franchise, holding it as an example to the other twelve clubs in the BBL. The Eagles have historically had a strong core of British players, from which their success has grown as they have recruited young exciting imports around them, and Flournoy said it was the club's long term goal to field an all Geordie team on Tyneside. He said: 'An all-British set up is something that all BBL clubs should be working towards, and Tim Lewis has done a fantastic job in bringing British talent to the forefront of the UK professional game.'
The New Yorker also emphasised the impact that his own British players have had on the Eagles success in the last few years: 'At the Eagles, our set-up is two fold – our priority is to bring through a crop of young British players every few years, with the second part being developing young rookie import players in the same melting pot.'
Whilst many successful Americans, such as Eagles legends TJ Walker and Jeremy Hyatt, have had success with Flournoy, the Eagles set up have turned out countless British stars. Current Captain Andrew Bridge, last week's top scorer Darius Defoe, Sheffield Sharks shooting guard Perry Lawson and Everton Tigers big man Olu Babalola, to name a few. He explained: 'These players have done the majority, if not all of their playing in the UK and although some of them are not with us now, their hard work is now paying off. Andrew Bridge first came here as a young man and had to play behind Jeremy Hyatt and TJ Walker. He learnt so much from that experience, and is now the team's captain and an example of what can be achieved. I took on Darius (Defoe) when he was just eighteen after Tony Garbelotto handed him over to me, and he is now regularly one of our top scorers.'
Flournoy also had positive things to say about the league as a whole, which is now attracting some of the top college prospects from across the Atlantic: 'The fact that we are now seeing players from the likes North Carolina, Georgetown and Marquette tells the story of where the league is at. Players are now looking to come to Europe once they have graduated from major Division One schools. Ultimately, a lot of English players are going over to the States, only to come back a few years later, whereas they could stay within a strong club set up here and be much more 'sellable' as a player, having dealt with different coaches and systems.'
Moving on to the rest of Friday night's fixtures, and Sheffield Sharks player-coach Atiba Lyons is under no illusion about the challenge the Sharks face when they travel to the Echo Arena to meet the Everton Tigers. He commented: 'Everton should be back at full strength, with Flo Larkai returning to the line up. They have many different scoring options you can't take anyone for granted that is on the floor'.
Completing this Friday's schedule is a match up between the Marshall MK Lions and the Guildford Heat at Bletchley Leisure Centre.
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