JOE Chapman has verbally agreed to return to all-conquering BBL champions Newcastle Eagles next season.
Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy met owner Paul Blake last night to thrash out a budget for the 2012/13 season buoyed by the news that player-of-the-year Chapman is set to return for a fourth season on Tyneside.
The Eagles have also had positive noises from Andrew Thomson and Charles Smith, who wants to play on for another year after playing a pivotal role in Saturday’s BBL play-off triumph.
Flournoy’s men were not at their imperious best in Birmingham but they ground out a win over Leicester Riders, which is proof of their tremendous team spirit and will to win.
Blake is keen to retain the core of the team that managed it – and knows that bringing back Chapman is a big move in the right direction.
“Generally you don’t expect to hold onto the player-of-the-year but I spoke to Joe on Friday and he wants to commit to another year,” Blake said.
“I think that Joe would like to come back for another year and build on his own performances. Obviously it’s a year since his injury and he is getting better and better.
“That is great for us because it gives us another year of building a team. It would be his fourth year and that gives us some excellent continuity.”
The Eagles owner acknowledges the need for “more conversations” with Thomson, who will be monitoring developments with the proposed BBL franchise in his hometown of Manchester.
Evergreen Smith is yet to talk to the Eagles hierarchy but told The Journal last week that he would play on – and he is desperate to do that in Newcastle.
“I spoke to Andy at the supporters player of the year awards and I think he will hopefully be staying,” he said.
“We need to have a few more conversations with him and we also need to speak to Charles, but if he is saying that he’d like to stay then that is excellent news for us too.
“Every year the idea is to try and retain the core and if we manage to retain both of them that will have happened.
“I think this year’s team just had a tremendous will to win. Saturday was just about getting out of the building with the win, which we managed to do.
“They know how to win and that is such a huge asset to have.”
A budget meeting last night will have given Flournoy and number two Dave Forrester a rough idea of the kind of player they will be able to afford next season.
But Blake has appealed for Eagles supporters to renew their season tickets early to boost Flournoy’s fighting fund.
“We’re undergoing a big push to supporters to buy season tickets as early as they can,” he said.
“That’s really a key to us retaining the players that we’ve got and also building on the core that we have now. It can help to move us forward next season and maybe begin to consider other things.”
The Eagles have not yet ruled out European basketball – but Blake acknowledges that there are complications before Newcastle can enter that competition.
The Euro Cup is set to go regional from next year, which would mean that any English entrants would only have to play against Dutch, French and Belgian sides. At the moment the competition could force them to go to Eastern Europe, which would put a heavy pressure on Eagles’ finances.
“There are various things that we need to look at there but the ambition remains the same – to be in that competition eventually,” Blake added.