Newcastle Eagles ended 2020 atop the BBL Championship table and with a BBL Cup semi-final to look forward to, and have been rewarded with December awards for Head Coach Ian Macleod and star guard Cortez Edwards.
Macleod ended his first season in charge – albeit a curtailed one – by lifting the BBL Trophy in March, and has carried that momentum into the 2020-21 campaign, despite everything occurring in the external environment, and he wins the Molten Kevin Cadle BBL Coach of the Month.
BBL Championship games commenced in December, and his Eagles went 5-1 to finish the calendar year top of the table. That included a key win in their opening game against fellow contenders London Lions, as his Eagles broke open a tight game with a huge fourth quarter during which they poured in 33 points.
Following their only defeat – by a single point on their longest road trip to Plymouth – Macleod guided Newcastle to four straight league wins, three of which were on the road at Manchester, Cheshire and against rivals Glasgow.
Trailing against Cheshire, Eagles burst out of his halftime team talk to dominate the third period and take a decisive lead in what ended up being a close 85-84 win, with the others being double-digit victories.
Macleod will have been particularly pleased to see his new-look team implement his aggressive defence and up-tempo ball-sharing style of play, leading the league in fast-break points and also setting the pace in assists per game and steals, as well as being second in overall points scored.
In addition to all of that, Eagles will feature in a BBL Cup semi-final next week, after successfully progressing through their quarter-final in December, beating Bristol Flyers 72-64 in a gritty game. Eagles haven’t won the Cup since doing so three times in a row up to 2017, so greater than this award for Macleod would be success in that competition during January.
Meanwhile, the star of that game, Cortez Edwards, joins his Coach in being awarded as the Molten BBL Player of the Month for December, after a string of impressive displays since joining from Worcester Wolves in the summer, with whom he was a Cup winner last year.
The BBL Cup quarter-final against Bristol was typical of his game, as Edwards posted a near triple-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, including an all-action five points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in the decisive second quarter run.
He was in double-digit scoring in all six of their league games, flirting with another triple-double against Manchester Giants with 15 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, as well as posting a double-double against Plymouth Raiders, and matching that high of 15 points against Cheshire.
While Edwards doesn’t appear near the top of many statistical categories overall – sixth in assists, seventh in steals, and he is the top rebounding guard – the Florida-native does his business across the board, averaging 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals per outing in December, playing the second most minutes of any player in the BBL.
Edwards held off stiff competition from numerous players in a wafer-thin contest for this award: edging out Jeremy Hemsley on strength of schedule and winning record; the likes of Jimbo Lull, Kahron Ross and Breaon Brady due largely to Newcastle’s winning record; as well as teammates Rahmon Fletcher and Evan Maxwell.