BRITISH basketball is finally ready to return to television’s big league . . .
And major draw Newcastle will tip off the latest raft of coverage when next month’s BBL Trophy final goes out live.
As revealed in last week’s Eagle Eye, ambitious satellite channel Setanta Sports have been locked in talks to screen elite hoops for weeks.
And it is understood a new contract will be inked at noon tomorrow ending several years in the small screen wilderness.
The Eagles’ Trophy showdown with bitter rivals Guildford Heat marks the start of the new relationship, with the Setanta crew heading to Plymouth.
But that is just the start of a link up which will put the BBL back among sport’s big hitters after their disastrous deal with ITV Digital.
Newcastle will host Sheffield in front of the cameras on March 12 but fans will already be wondering whether this is yet another flash in the pan . . .
Or whether hoops in this country has found its first real home since Sky Sports opted to ditch coverage of the domestic game.
Long-serving Eagles fans look back fondly on the days when Kevin Cadle and Co served up a live game every week and highlights to boot.
BBL favourites became instantly recognisable stars and those at the helm of fellow minority sports looked on with envy.
But that all changed when ITV Digital promised the world to basketball’s powers that be, only to deliver nothing but disappointment after becoming crippled by financial problems.
In the past five years ice hockey, netball, greyhound racing and pool have all found regular platforms on satellite television.
And basketball from all over the world has become easier to follow from the comfort of your own armchair.
But there has been no place for the BBL with only the odd final finding a place in the TV listings.
Finding the right deal has driven Newcastle owner and BBL chairman Paul Blake to distraction.
And failing to strike an agreement for so long has laid the Eagles’ chief open to widespread criticism.
But sources close to Blake suggest the Setanta agreement can be the start of something special for UK hoops.
And Newcastle head into this evening’s league clash with Birmingham – in Telford of all places – buoyed by the prospect of plying their wares in front of a wider audience.
Yesterday’s European Championship draw emphasised the fact that British basketball is on the up after Team GB were paired with some of the biggest names on the continent.
And interest in the sport will only intensify in the build-up to London 2012 as the capital prepares to welcome Luol Deng and Co to the biggest party in world sport.
Ensuring the BBL has a platform to sell itself in the next four years is of paramount importance to Blake, his fellow owners and their clubs.
And fans across the country will be hoping tomorrow’s Setanta deal does not prove to be another false dawn.