Sharks new signing Allen Payne gets his first taste of the intense Sheffield/Newcastle rivalry when the teams meet in the north-east on Friday night.
American Payne, aged 22, Sharks’ only summer signing, has enjoyed a good start to his professional career.
Home wins against Durham Wildcats and Plymouth Raiders were split by a defeat at Manchester as Sheffield’s title bid has begun steadily rather than spectacularly.
However, Payne, who has settled into English life by watching cricket and rugby, has set his sights high and he says he is benefitting from playing alongside captain Mike Tuck and talisman point-guard BJ Holmes.
“I’m not here to overshadow or take away from anyone, I want to fit in and do my job,” he said. “I know we finished second last year – and that’s good – but we’re going for first place and win trophies. I’m here to help.
“Whenever I have a question I ask Tuck or BJ.
“They know what the expectations for this team are. They’ve taken me under their wing.”
Payne, Tuck and Holmes will have to be at their best to win at Newcastle.
The Eagles – last season’s champions – lost to Worcester Wolves in their first match but have also beaten Durham.
Eagles have overtaken the Sharks as British basketball’s most successful club but the mutual respect between the organisations remains strong.
Eagles coach Fab Flournoy, who played for Sheffield earlier in his career said: “Sheffield are a tough, consistent and very competitive team.
“They have a core of players who know the system and have added an athletic American in Allen Payne.
“We expect nothing but a very tough battle.”
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