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Top tier basketball returning to Essex
THE Essex Leopards will be playing in the top tier of British basketball the season after next.
The side – which split their home matches between Basildon and Brentwood – will join the British Basketball League (BBL) for the 2013/14 campaign, after one last year in the English Basketball League (EBL).
Leopards’ manager director Gareth Roberts said: “We are really pleased to be able to bring professional basketball back to Essex.
“When we reformed the club in 2004 this was always our aim and we are very pleased to now be in a position to play again at the top level of British basketball."
The original Leopards club competed in the BBL between 1994 and 2003, winning a league and cup double in 1997 before retaining the league title the following season.
The club withdrew in 2003 and are about to play their ninth year in the EBL.
Last year, they won a treble of trophies after winning the division one title, the national cup and the end of season play-offs.
Leopards will now want to build on that, while also looking to develop their fan base.
But chairman Fred Dicker was keen to stress the team are still looking to be successful in their final EBL season.
“We’re really excited about the prospect of BBL basketball in Essex,” said Dicker.
“And we hope to enter the competition having successfully defended our three titles.”
Off the court, Leopards have one of the biggest community programmes outside the BBL having provided coaching and lifestyle information to more than 4,000 children last season through the Hoops 4 Health scheme and other projects.
That made them an attractive proposition for the BBL and the league’s chairman Paul Blake is pleased to have them back on board.
“We are delighted to welcome the Essex Leopards to the BBL,” said Blake.
“Their community ethos matches perfectly with our own model and we are delighted to re-establish a presence in an area which is renowned for basketball.
“We have also been impressed with the way the Leopards have developed their club over the last number of years, which they have demonstrated has very strong foundations.
“With Essex Leopards and Birmingham already confirmed for the 2013-14 season, we are extremely excited by the growth and development of the league.”
South East Essex last had a BBL team in 2011 when the Essex Pirates played in Southend before folding.
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