FAB Flournoy confesses the long build-up to the BBL Cup final has posed problems for his Newcastle Eagles.
While Leicester Riders spent the weekend tuning up for Sunday’s Birmingham final by racking up two big league wins against London and Worcester, the Eagles have been sitting on their hands since a December 30 derby defeat of Durham.
Many of their new-look side have not played in a final before and Flournoy does not want to pile too much pressure on his Eagles rookies – although that is unavoidable with Newcastle handed more than a fortnight to think about just one game.
The Eagles player-coach admits he has tailored their preparations because of it, only beginning to focus on the Riders’ main threats this week.
They also arranged a tough scrimmage with Northumbria on Monday to try and shake off any ring-rust they may have from their festive inaction.
Flournoy said: “It is a bit difficult for us.
“Leicester are in a bit of rhythm having played those games over the weekend while we’ve been off but you ask yourself whether it’s better to have rest or rhythm in the run-up to these games. We needed rest because we had a lot of guys who were beaten up, but it is a long build-up.
“In previous years we’ve had league games or a Trophy game which has split our focus.
“This year it has been solely about this game since we played Durham, although we haven’t begun our work on Leicester and their threat yet.
“We don’t want to put too much pressure on this game from a coaching perspective because the pressure of the day will take care of itself.
“I don’t think the guys will need to be reminded of what a big game it is for us.”
As the first piece of silverware of the season, the Cup will provide an important marker for the rest of the BBL season.
Leicester look very strong this year and know defeating the Eagles on Sunday will inflict a serious blow on Newcastle – especially after they drew first blood in the inter-club rivalry by beating them in the league.
Flournoy knows more than just BBL bragging rights are on the agenda but does not see the point in using any psychological tactics to try and ease the pressure on his players.
He added: “There are no psychological games from me.
“We don’t talk about it because, to be honest, there’s nothing to talk about.
“We’re focusing on making the players as good as they can be on the day.
“We’re focusing on the weight room, we’re focusing on individual weaknesses on behalf of the opposition. Our preparation has been very thorough.
“We have been doing drills, we had a college-style scrimmage last week – everything has been geared towards coping with Leicester and how they play, but we haven’t started the video work on Leicester or the analysis of them yet.
“If we had done that last week I think it would have taken the edge off us and I want to time it right so we are ready for the game on Sunday.”
Eagles will benefit from the presence of Charles Smith, who has an excellent record in big games down the years.
He was the MVP against Plymouth in the same contest last year and is champing at the bit after making his return against Durham.