THE North-East’s showcase new basketball venue has been handed a glowing endorsement by the man charged with delivering London 2012 glory.

Team GB coach Chris Finch is already at home inside Northumbria University’s Sport Central after back-toback practice sessions at the £30m facility.

And now the experienced playcaller has called on the North-East public to pack the 3,000-seat arena ahead of Macedonia’s visit to Tyneside on Sunday.

“Sport Central is world class,” said Finch. “It’s on a level with anything you’d find on the American college scene and it’s not even finished yet.

“It’s great. It’s the perfect size for basketball – roomy and bright – and I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like all laid out and with fans in the house on Sunday.”

Finch kicked off his basketball career in the UK almost 20 years ago as a student at Sheffield University.

The US forward joined the city’s fledgling Sharks franchise as a Masters student and went on to coach the Steel City club.

Now the Team GB coach wants to see more BBL franchises work closely with universities to develop basketball across Britain.

“Basketball in the UK can really benefit from fostering a relationship with the country’s universities,” he added.

“It’s key to tapping into the local community and offering local kids a pathway into the professional game.”

Finch brushed off the fact that star men Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu both hobbled out of yesterday’s practice session with ice packs on their left knees.

And he expects to pick from a full complement of players come Sunday’s 4pm tip-off – including influential skipper and local favourite Drew Sullivan.

The North East-based forward and three-time Newcastle Eagle played a key role in Monday’s win in Hungary as Team GB started their Eurobasket qualifying campaign in style.