Tosan Evbuomwan heads into the biggest game of his basketball career tonight determined to fly the flag for Newcastle hoops on one of the sport’s grandest stages of all.
The Eagles Academy graduate faces the toughest of tests when 15th seed Princeton bids to upset second ranked Arizona in the opening round of US college basketball’s famed March Madness.
But Evbuomwan is buoyed by the fact that friends and family from across the North East will be glued to their TVs from 8pm hoping to witness a true David versus Goliath takedown on the other side of the Atlantic.
“I’m always appreciative of the support from home,” said the former Royal Grammar School pupil. “It means a lot.
“And it means everything to be able to go dancing at March Madness.
“Last year was heartbreaking, losing in the final of the Ivy Tournament, and so being able to do it this year is a great feeling.
“We’re excited for the Arizona matchup.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country obviously but we can’t wait to compete on that stage and show our brand of basketball as we play to win.”
Evbuomwan won a First Team All Ivy selection for the second season on the bounce following an outstanding senior year with Princeton.
He followed that up with the Ivy League Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award after the Tigers punched their ticket for March Madness with a 74-65 win against fierce rivals Yale.
But now Evbuomwan faces an unenviable head-to-head clash with Arizona’s giant Azuolas Tubelis as the end-of-season NCAA event gets underway.
The Lithuanian NBA prospect boasts a four inch height advantage over Tynesider Tosan but the former Newcastle favourite’s agility and legendary wingspan means it’s a match up fans across the Pond are relishing.
Princeton slipped to an agonising two-point loss in the Ivy League Tournament final 12 months ago to miss out on their March Madness invite.
But after Evbuomwan added five boards and four assists to his 21 points in the 2023 final against Yale, the Tigers progressed to their 26th NCAA tournament in style.
Hot favourites Arizona head into tonight’s first round game on the back of a 61-59 win against UCLA in the Pac-12 Conference with Tubelis averaging 19 points and nine boards per game.