- National Teams
Levett Essex Leopards and the University of Essex have joined forces, with the Big Cats and Essex Rebels’ women’s team playing home games at the Essex Sport Arena.
The 2018-19 NBL season will see the Leopards playing a majority of their home games at the newly-opened Essex Sport Arena at the University of Essex in Colchester.
The venue is already the home of the WBBL’s newest team, the Essex Rebels, giving fans the chance to watch double headers of men’s and women’s basketball at the UK’s newest premier basketball venue.
Welcoming the move, Dave Parry, Director of Sport at the University of Essex, commented “this is a really exciting development for basketball in Essex, as fans will be able to see the best players in the county playing at the best basketball facility in the region.
“We’ve been developing our own programme and teams over the past four years, and we now have two teams in the highest level of British Universities’ competition. In the National Leagues we have been supported by Sportsafe, the leading supplier of sports equipment in the U.K., and next season our women’s team, now named the Essex Rebels, are making the move to the WBBL.
“To welcome the best known and highest performing men’s team in the county to the Essex Sport Arena brings all of the best teams in the area under one roof.
“The University of Essex is committed to helping to develop basketball in the U.K., and this is an exciting contribution to that mission.”
Leopards’ General Manager Dave Ryan added:
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to play at a superb new venue and build our club in the process.
“We’re not abandoning our other home at the Brentwood Centre, we owe Roger Davison and the Leisure Trust a lot, but the chance to play at an unbelievable facility and utilise everything the University of Essex is far too good to turn down.
“It’s become increasingly obvious that, in order to succeed in the NBL, a link with a top class university is needed. But we don’t want to be a university team playing in a gym in front of a few family and friends, we want to build a successful club with a big fanbase who can move through Division Two and One and take Leopards back into the BBL.”
Leopards competed in NBL Division 2 this season after being relegated from Division 1 for the first time in over a decade. They finished the season 14-8 in fourth position, and then were bounced in the Playoff quarter-finals at the hands of Westminster Warriors.
Leopards’ coach Thomas Baker, who will assist with the men’s programme at University of Essex is excited about the link up between the two organisations:
“It is exciting to think where this partnership could take the club. From my time here at Leopards we have consistently strived to be the best club we can be on and off the court and this partnership is another step on that journey. The collaborative effort involved now will certainly help us achieve our long term aims of being a BBL franchise.
“As the head coach, to have the prospect of coaching out of such a top facility like the Sports Arena at the University of Essex is an amazing opportunity and having the support of physiotherapy and performance analysis team that the University has to offer will be key for us to continue to look for ways to improve and will enable us to support the holistic development of all the players at the club.