The Knights began the week by confirming the signing of 6'7" forward Nikola Urli. After 4 years at Hawai'i Pacific University in NCAA Division 2, he will join Team Newcastle for their upcoming BUCS Northern Premier season. He will also be linking up with his brother Fran for this season's NBL Division 1 campaign.
Nikola was part of the Sharks during their 2016-17 PacWest Championship victory. He appeared in a total of 21 games, averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds over 8.6 minutes. His efficiency in particular stood out over the season, shooting 45.3% from the field and 90% from the free throw line. A highlight from his time there was a 10 point, 1 rebound outing against Hawai'i Hilo where he finished 100% from the field.
He is also a player with international experience, having won the 2010 FIBA U16 European Championship with Croatia.
Team Newcastle have moved to confirm their second new signing ahead of the season; Onyekachi Nzerem, formerly of New York Tech in NCAA Division II.
The adaptable 6'6'' Guard/ Forward will be representing the club in both BUCS and NBL leagues where his ability to score at all three levels should add further potency to Newcastle's offense. In his last season in the NCAA, he averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds over 20 games as a starter, with strong efficiency both from the field and beyond the 3-point line.
Known as Kachi, he has also proven himself to be a tough defender and should fit well with the current group of players at the club. In addition to playing, he will be studying for a Master's degree in E-business marketing.
The Knights began to bolster their roster Monday afternoon with the signing of versatile guard Eric Stafford, formerly of NCAA Division I side Lafayette College.
At 6'5", Eric has the ability to play multiple positions on the floor, with or without the ball. He arrives in Newcastle with a reputation as a player with a high basketball IQ, vision and feel for the game. This was evidenced by an assist to turnover ratio of 1.8 over 30 games as a starter, good for sixth in the league in this category.
In the 2017/18 season, he also led his team in assists and steals and led guards in rebounds. This ability to affect the game on both ends will prove invaluable to the Knights during the upcoming BUCS and NBL seasons. As a co-captain at Lafayette this past season, he will provide a strong leadership presence on the court in both competitions.
In addition to playing for the Knights, Eric will be continuing his education by studying a master's degree in finance and economics.
Ahead of their preparation for the 2018/2019 BUCS Premier and NBL Division 1 seasons, Team Newcastle are delighted to announce the return of a familiar core of players as they look to challenge on four fronts.
Following a record 3rd place regular season finish and second consecutive playoff semi final appearance in the BUCS Premier, Alei Wol will return for his third season. Now the longest-tenured BUCS player, he will be hoping to push the club forward in the league and playoffs.
Joining him are second year players Zephi Sharman and Liam Obuobie who, now with a full year of experience in head coach Ian Hewitt’s system, will be looking to help the team hit the ground running once the league starts again in October.
In addition, Ben Seipt and Laurie Owen will be part of the BUCS squad following their decisions to study Master’s degrees at Newcastle University. Both players were part of the NBL Division 1 squad last season. They will bring a wealth of valuable experience from this and their previous tenure in the BUCS Premier as undergraduates at Durham University.
All 5 of the above players will also have roles to play in the NBL Division 1, National Trophy and National Cup competitions. They are joined by two of the key players from last season, Mark Elderkin and Fran Urli with the aim of improving last season’s finishes in all 3 tournaments.
Keep an eye out for further signings in the coming weeks as both squads begin to take shape ahead of pre-season at the start of September.