by Andy McKenzie

Newcastle Eagles' season hasn't quite gone to plan so far and you could perhaps forgive them for feeling a little downhearted. But try telling that to summer signing Mark Boyd.

Mark Boyd Boyd was one of six new players to hit Geordie land at the start of the season and expectations were high. Since then, they've struggled for consistency in the league and gone out of the cup. Their season was rescued with a big win at Sheffield in the quarter-finals of the trophy. But the much-travelled American says he is happy despite the team's indifferent start and his own struggles to adjust. "I love it here," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun, I really am."

Boyd arrived in the North East after a brief spell playing in the Japanese league and admits his knowledge of the English game wasn't great. "I really didn't know too much, just what other players had told me. I was playing in Japan and my agent (who also represents Newcastle's Rob Phelps) was telling me Newcastle had a spot open and they were looking for someone," he said.

"It was something new," he added. "To get the chance to see another part of the world that I'd never been to before was something that really appealed to me."

Boyd grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and didn't have an easy upbringing. "It wasn't the nicest of neighbourhoods but I had to make do with what I had, which was basically nothing. Basketball got me out of bad areas and kind of kept me going straight."

He then crossed America to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After gaining an economics degree, Boyd spent time in the CBA playing for Mexico City and West Palm Beach in Florida, before leaving the US for Japan. As he's been in a number of leagues around the world, he's in a good position to talk about the quality of play over here. "The standard is fine. Compared to back home in the States, it isn't as high, but it's definitely comparable," he said.

Boyd has had a tough time of it so far, finding minutes in a talented and deep Newcastle line-up. He admitted he'd found the transition to English basketball difficult. "It was hard for me at first, getting adjusted to everything. It's different to what I'm used to, the style of play is different, the officiating, everything is different."

But Boyd, who was also a promising baseball player and footballer at college, isn't too downhearted with the way things have gone so far. "It's gone alright, it's up and down for whatever reasons. I don't think the chemistry has gotten there yet because of the new players and new coach, and maybe some attitudes. We need to get on the same page, some games we are and some we're not."

"I hate that we can't stay on a winning track," he said. "But I think there comes a time when we have to realise we've got to stay together and not get down on each other when things aren't going our way."

Boyd is now beginning to find his role in the Eagles side and his increased numbers have coincided with their best run of the season. He is proving to be an all-round player and, at 6'7" and 245lbs, he can play any of the three frontcourt positions. A gentleman away from the court, he certainly has a mean streak on it.

"I'm a very tenacious player," he said. "I really don't like to lose. I like to rebound, I'm going to abuse a lot of players, you know, beat 'em up and let them know I'm on the floor. And score if I have to."

He also admits still harbouring ambitions of making it to the big league one day. "The NBA is a dream for every kid growing up back home, but I've never put all my eggs in one basket on getting there, for it not to happen. But I've thought about it, and I'm only 25, so I still have time."

Newcastle fans needn't worry just yet though, as Boyd is not planning on moving for the time being. "I'll stay as long as they'll have me here," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun. It would be a lot more fun if we were winning the games we should be, but I really enjoy it and I have no plans on leaving any time soon."

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