Calder spearheads Sunderland’s drive for basketball return

Brian Calder.
Brian Calder.
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PLANS to resurrect Sunderland’s proud basketball tradition have been launched with a bid to create a National League side in the city.

The new team will be known as the Predators - part of the Sunderland Predators stable of sports teams created by the University of Sunderland and other organisations in the city.

But the Predators want to recruit from all across Wearside, not just the university.

And the move is being backed by formed Sunderland basketball player and coach Brian Calder who is desperate for the new venture to succeed and revive the glory days of the Sunderland Saints of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The Saints went under other names - Sunblest and Scorpions - but were consistently one of the best sides in the country until they started to struggle financially and were bought by former Newcastle United owner Sir John Hall.

Hall moved the club from Wearside to Tyneside where they eventually became the Newcastle Eagles, now playing in the elite British Basketball League, and the hole left in Sunderland by the team’s departure has gone unfilled.

Until now, Calder hopes.

The basketball coach, once part of a Sunderland Saints side which challenged for honours both in the UK and Europe and attracted near 5,000 strong crowds at its peak,, said: “It’s a travesty that a city with a proud and strong basketball heritage such as ours has gone almost two decades without a National League team.

“Twenty years on, I still get stopped on a regular basis by people wanting to talk about the basketball team and that it’s such a shame it all ended the way it did.

“While it’s great to reminisce with them, I think the bigger shame is that we have a whole generation of young people in the city who do not know that Sunderland not only had a national basketball team, but it was one of the best in the country.

“I hope the launch of the Predators team will change that, and with a National League team in the city, we can give young players something to be proud of and aspire to.”

The ‘Predators’ will be holding a series of open trial sessions across the summer for male and female players interested in representing Sunderland at a national level, with the first one due to take place before the end of the month.

Those wishing to take part can register at www.sunderlandbasketball.com or call 0191 515 36 96.

The new Sunderland side will have to start in the lowest division of the National League.

But the aim is to emulate the example of Durham Wildcats who also started at the bottom of the pyramid several years ago but have now reach the professional ranks of the British Basketball League.

“It is not often an opportunity arises for young people in the area to be able to represent Sunderland at a national level,” added Brian.

“Therefore, we are looking for players not only with the required skill and the fitness levels, but also the right attitude and commitment to make the city proud every time they step out on the court.”

Like their predecessors in the 80s and 90s, the Predators will where the famous red and white colours synonymous with the city.

All home matches will be played at the University’s CitySpace building on Chester Road.

And both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will begin their National League campaigns in this autumn.