A massive month of sporting action kicks off at Northumbria University this weekend as the 2017 Stan Calvert Cup takes centre stage.
Back-to-back first team basketball matches are the focus for the official launch of the annual multi-sport clash between Northumbria and fierce rivals Newcastle University.
And Sunday’s hoops double header ushers in four weeks of competitive action with points up for grabs in a host of sports at every level.
“We always celebrate the Stan Calvert Cup with a grand finale,” said Northumbria University student sport president Emily Watkinson.
“And the bulk of the matches will still take place on the final weekend of February when the overall winners will be crowned.
“However, we wanted to make a point of celebrating this fantastic competition as we mean to go on by launching it in some style.
“Both universities are big players on the national basketball scene and the men’s and women’s first team matches will be two of the most competitive games Stan Calvert 2017 will stage.
“Sport Central will be packed out with fans from both teams and we hope the atmosphere will really bring this year’s event to boiling point.”
Student media teams from both universities will be invited to interview key figures and film exclusive footage.
And there will be four valuable points on offer with the cream of the region’s student basketball players desperate to claim the inter-city bragging rights.
“Basketball is very important to Sport Central and to the North East,” said Northumbria University’s director of sport, Colin Stromsoy.
“We are the home to both the BBL Cup holders, Newcastle Eagles, and Team Northumbria men - the 2017 National Cup winners.
“Our women’s team won the 2016 playoff final at London’s O2 Arena last summer and we really are proud of our reputation as a hotbed for hoops.
“We are well aware that Newcastle also have an incredibly successful basketball programme and that’s why this launch event made perfect sense.
“Both games will be incredibly tight and a genuine spectacle for the fans. It’s what the Stan Calvert Cup is all about.”
Northumbria have already nudged ahead with the first Stan Calvert win of 2017 - a thumping American Football victory at Gateshead Stadium securing the points.
And the current holders are chasing a fourth successive overall victory following a run of six successive defeats from 2008 to 2013.
“It’s brilliant for basketball that we’re the focus of the launch event,” said Team Northumbria men’s playcaller Marc Steutel. “On paper the men’s first team game should be close so it’s an ideal fixture for the neutral.”
TN’s women’s coach Chris Bunten added: “We know how much the win will mean. We’ve been struggling with injuries all season but this is a victory that everyone wants.”
Northumbria take on Newcastle’s women from 5pm and the men’s game tips off at 7pm.