In what is fast becoming one of the most exciting rivalries in the BBL, Newcastle Eagles welcome the Plymouth City Patriots to the Vertu Motors Arena this evening as Marc Steutel’s side take on Paul James’ team live on Sky Sports!
The Eagles and Patriots have been thorns in each other’s
sides since the latter’s formation at the start of last season, as Plymouth ensured
Newcastle would miss out on the Play-offs last year with a last-gasp win at the
Pavilions, before roles were reversed a few weeks ago as tonight’s hosts
knocked the Patriots out of the Cup.
Ahead of tonight’s latest showdown between the two sides, we
caught up with Plymouth’s Rashad Hassan and new Newcastle signing and Great
Britain Olympian Kyle Johnson to look ahead to the game.
“Losing to Newcastle in the Cup was a rude awakening for us
that showed we’ve all got to step up and do our part.” Hassan said.
“It was a close game but losing humbled us and made us realise
we’ve got to step it up a notch if we want to achieve what we’re capable of
“We didn’t appreciate them coming into our arena and beating
us for our home opener, so we’re out to get some payback tonight.
“There is definitely a rivalry developing between us. We stopped
them getting into the Play-offs last year and they knocked us out of the Cup
this year, and its great for the BBL that we’re building a rivalry, I think.”
“I’ve always wanted to play in the BBL.”
A legend of British Basketball and part of the London 2012 Men’s
Olympic Basketball Team for GB, Kyle Johnson is a much-loved figure in the game
and the recent announcement of his acquisition by the Newcastle Eagles was met
with much excitement.
Signing for the Eagles reunites Johnson with Marc Steutel,
who coached ‘KJ’ extensively as part of the national team, and the Olympian
discussed his excitement at the prospect of playing in the BBL.
“I’m super excited to be here and to play in front of family
and friends. I’ve obviously been playing for the national team since 2011 and
usually it is only in the windows or summers where my family gets to come and
see me play, so to be here for a whole season is something I’m really looking
“Timing was perfect for me to come here, I think. I’ve
always wanted to play in the BBL at some point, so to find a place in Newcastle
that I’m able to call home is perfect. I’m really excited to get into a rhythm with
the group and see what we can achieve together.
“Marc (Steutel) was a huge influence in me coming here, for sure.
He coaches with a lot of passion, he’s approachable and he wants to develop his
players, so having had the opportunity to play for Marc with the National Team
over the years, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and how he works.”
“This is a great chance to let people around the
country know our names!”
The start to the season hasn’t been plain sailing for the
Patriots, as they lost sharp-shooting Brit Joe Hart before a ball had even been
bounced in the BBL Championship due to injury, with star point guard – and a
favourite by many for MVP – Antonio Williams out for an extended period as
As a veteran of the league and a leader on his team, Hassan
discusses how proud he has been of the roster for stepping up in the absence of
two key players, and details how the team have taken their opportunities to
enjoy greater roles on the team.
“I give a lot of praise to my teammates for the way they’ve
all stepped up without Antonio (Williams), who is a big loss for us. Its easy
to go into a negative spiral when you lose your best player, but we’ve all
stepped up and done everything we can to help this team win.
“We’ve got a great opportunity tonight to show the whole
county what the Plymouth City Patriots are all about. This is a great chance to
let people around the country know our names.
“We’re going up to Newcastle to win, to show what Plymouth
City Patriots basketball is all about, to represent our city and our fans. Its
going to be a great game on Sky Sports and we’re excited to show what we can
“We have a lot of room to grow and find our rhythm.”
The Eagles have also had a turbulent start to the year with a
number of roster changes preventing the team from developing a real rhythm
together on the floor, but Johnson is adamant that full focus is on finding the
form that could see the Eagles soar up the standings.
“Being on national television is a huge platform for us, of
course, but we’ve just got to take things one game at a time and focus on
progressing as a group from game to game.
“As a team we have a lot of room to grow and find our rhythm,
which is really positive and something we’ve got to be excited to work towards.
“We know the start to the season hasn’t been what we would
have liked, but we’re focussed on doing everything we can to find those
improvements and execute them on the floor to get the wins we need to move up