We were on April 18th; the Newcastle University Basketball team was celebrating. They just came off a close victory against the Bradford Dragons, 78-75 in Bradford. Federici and Blain’s 25 points each, with a game-winning shot from Federici saved the team from an overtime.
That victory capped off their three-game winning streak and marked the end of their amazing regular season.
For the first time in the team history Team Newcastle University finally reach the top eight of the best basketball university leagues in England. And will make the Division One playoffs as a 5th seed.
The team was doing a lot of ups and downs between the first and second Division since 2016. They never came near the Division One playoffs at any time.
No one predicted this, back in early November. When the season started Newcastle was seen as the newly promoted university that will struggle to stay in the division.
However, the team managed to find a perfect balance making heads turn all year. Winning games against the first seed and having two wins streaks on the season were a part of that.
So, what is the secret of this Newcastle University Basketball team’s amazing season?
First of all, after looking at the stats and the players, what is noticeable is the good recruitment the team has done.
Their three top scorers were all recruited last summer: Blain, Federici and Moya.
Chris Hughes, journalist for NBL England who designed the Team and Player of the week praised the recruitment done by Newcastle this off-season.
He rated very highly Ronald Blain and Brandon Federici especially by saying:
‘Blain would not look out of place in the ‘Team of the Year’’. Followed a bit later by: ‘Federici has quickly established himself as one of the league’s top shooter’.
This is a great accomplishment by the two post-graduates who have been ballistic all season long as both average more than 14 points per game –14.7ppg for Federici and 22.1ppg for Blain.
However, even if those two players really stood out this season. Coach and recruitment manager Mark Elderkin likes to remind that everyone who is on the first team has been recruited.
‘Having recruits is extremely important’ he says.
Knowing this we can just appreciate the good job done by Newcastle University. To attract those players and create a balanced team with great scorers but also team players behind to support them.
Another reason in favour of Newcastle university success is the academic guarantee and the facilities’ investment the university made. That help them to be a good side and an attractive destination for players over the last few years.
Indeed, as Brandon Federici said to me Newcastle is a Russel Group university and it offers great programs and education to every student.
And for players that come here to finish their studies, to have the safety that the diploma they will get will be very valuable and recognised as a great accomplishment that obviously play a role in the decision making.
In addition to this, the university also decided to invest in a new sport centre and a new gym few years ago.
The brand-new facilities alongside the excellent teaching programs make the perfect mix for student-athletes to come here. They have access to two great programs academically and in sport.
Federici explains it well: ‘I think it was a combination, definitely the academics but also the city reputation and the facilities that did it for me’.
All of the above combined together could really push Newcastle to become a top basketball program in the UK argues Chris Hughes:
‘It is important Newcastle make their mark now’.
The competition is very harsh as other universities stand out right now, such as Loughborough or Solent. Nevertheless, Newcastle isn’t far behind and the next few years will be really important for them.
The team chemistry was excellent this year and it is the main reason those players played the way they did.
To have a team full of friends is very important as the respect and trust players have for each other will make the difference in games.
Everyone seemed to know his role and their competitiveness was used to push each other to reach the maximum of their capacity.
Watching them play, it is obvious that this group is special, see yourself here.
‘This year, this is probably the closest the team has been and I’ve been on in my whole career. We just clicked as a team from the start’, says back-up point guard Naseem Abu-Ramadan.
The team got lucky this happened because this is pretty rare to find a balance like that. Especially in an environment where, every year, there are players joining and leaving the group.
The 2016/17 season has brought both ups and downs for a new look Newcastle University roster. An entirely new BUCS team and a rotating door of players in NBL always meant there would be an element of inconsistency this season. Despite the adversity and difficulties the Knights have continued to march forward, set new standards and achieved what the club always strived for. With the NBL play-offs still to take place much of the season is now over. Here is a review of the 2016/17 so far but no doubt the play-offs will bring more excitement, turns and twists.
Newcastle University Men's team competed in their debut season in BUCS Premiership North which hosts a number of great University Basketball powerhouses, despite this the new class of players fought hard to finish in 4th position in the Premiership North and battle their way into the Final Fours. After beating Brunel in the Final 16's and beating the number 1 South seed, UEL, with a tip in from young Undergraduate Alei Wol, in their first ever BUCS Super 8 quarter final. The Knights fought hard on day 2 in their Semi-Final versus a strong Durham University team but fell short and their journey ended despite outstanding performances from Richard Austin and Irving Eggleston. Although it was disappointing to lose, the Knights accomplished something no other Newcastle University Basketball team has for a long time and that is to finish top 4 in the Nation.
Team Newcastle University also had their opening debut season in NBL Division 2. After back to back promotions from NBL Division 4 and Division 3 the Knights had a good momentum going into a very strong league with some really well established clubs. Newcastle finished with a 19-3 record but finished behind Kent Crusaders on a head to head of 3 points. The league came down to the final game of the season as Team Newcastle hosted Kent but lost 67-71 despite an inspiring point guard performance from Romonn Nelson who has went from strength to strength since signing in September. This meant Newcastle finished runners up in NBL Division 2, sealing their third successive promotion this time to NBL Division 1. Earlier in the season the Knights had picked up their 3rd National Cup in 3 years after beating Kent in the final of the Patrons Cup, 77-65, with Richard Austin picking up the finals MVP.
Team Newcastle University start their play-off campaign this Sunday (2nd April) against local rivals Tees Valley Mohawks, come along and support the Knights at Queens Campus, Durham University, Tip off 3pm. All support is welcome as the Knights will look to finish the season on a high in the NBL Division 2 play-offs.
Team Newcastle's 2016 was a great one, winning the BUCS National Trophy, NBL Division 3 North and sealing promotions to BUCS Premiership and NBL Division 2. It also saw Chuck Duru, Tayo Oyefusi, Jack Beresford, George Beard, Prince Lartey, Alex Sfikas, Charlie Wallrapp, Robbie Lemons and Nathan Ensz graduate alongside Ben Chicken picking up a great work placement opportunity for the 2016/17 season. This meant that the 2016/17 season was going to be a one of change and challenges, with both, new leagues and new personnel the gauntlet was set but so far the Knights have exceeded expectations.
The Knights currently sit 4th in BUCS Premiership North with a 3-5 record and have sealed a BUCS Premiership place next year and have put themselves in a position where they will have a home final 16 draw. Team Newcastle University are also 4th in NBL Division 2 with a 7-2 record and have qualified for the Patron's Cup Semi-Final. The Knights return for training this Thursday and take on a tough Liverpool side at Liverpool on the 7th January in NBL Division 2.
You can check out our 2016/17 mid season highlights via YouTube:
Image courtesy of Mansoor Ahmed.
The 2015/16 Season has been a spectacular one for the Knights with the Newcastle team winning the NBL Division 3 North Championship, BUCS Division 1 North Championship, BUCS National Trophy and the BUCS Premiership Promotion Playoffs. As a club Newcastle University Basketball has shone brightly in BUCS this year finishing 5th amongst all Universities and will now have both the Men’s and Women’s team competing with the best in the BUCS Premiership. The Men’s NBL team should also have gained promotion to NBL Division 2 after finishing top of Division 3 North with a 19-1 record, with just the paperwork to go the Knights have surely done enough to earn back to back promotions.
The BUCS squad were outstanding throughout the season and slayed all in their path and finishing the season unbeaten. The Knights finished 10-0 in the league, dominated the BUCS Trophy Final and won the BUCS Premiership Promotion Final after a shootout with Derby that served up over 20 made 3 pointers. The squad was dominated by Postgraduates Robbie Lemons, Nathan Ensz, Tayo Oyefusi, Charlie Wallrapp, Chuck Duru, Prince Lartey and Jack Beresford who all leave for pastures new this year alongside Undergraduate sniper George Beard, which does mean the Knights will be rebuilding for the 2016/17 season which will surely produce another exciting squad. Young big man Ben Chicken is the only returner but watch out for the new student athletes who will be announced soon.
The NBL squad also had an exciting season with the NBL Division 3 North providing an exciting dual with the talented Danum Eagles and Division 3 having some really strong outfits in the South such as Thames Valley, Oxford Brookes and Brunel. The Knights had an excellent league campaign and until the last league game had been undefeated in the league for 39 games since their entry into NBL which was some feat! One of the highlights of the season was down at Danum where the Knights battled back to win the game by 9 points and all but sealed the league. The other highlight of the years was definitely the NBL Division 3 Playoff Final, unfortunately Newcastle just fell short of the mark on that occasion but show cased their team basketball, style of play and toughness against a very experience and talented Thames Valley squad.
As a club the Women were outstanding and fought to keep their place in the BUCS Premiership as well as making it to their first ever Final 8 tournament. The Women’s Second team were coached by Women’s First Team player, Noelia Quintas, who led the team to league victory and promotion. The Men’s Second team also won their respective league and gained another valuable BUCS Promotion. The club continue to strive to new heights and with the Men’s team stepping up weight classes and the Women’s First team going into their second year in BUCS Premiership it will certainly be an exciting 2016/17 season.
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