Essex Rebels – formerly Essex Blades – will become the newest franchise to enter the WBBL after being accepted for the 2018-19 season.
The re-branded Rebels will be supported by the University of Essex and play at the Essex Sport Arena – the new 1600 seat facility opened earlier this year.
Essex were crowned NBL Division 1 champions after a 20-1 regular season before losing to Anglia Ruskin University in the playoff final last weekend, but will now make the step up to the WBBL.
“We have worked so hard to reach this point,” said Head Coach, Mark Lloyd.
“It’s a true reflection on the players’ commitment to get better each day: they are on the practice floor with the realisation that this will create more and more opportunities to be successful.
“The programme is built around the student athlete and their ability to grow as a scholar, an athlete, and ultimately as a basketball player. This new opportunity will only enhance their overall experience – I’m delighted for the players.”
Dave Parry, who is Director of Sport at the University of Essex, commented: “We set out four years ago to provide an athlete-centred programme, focussed on helping develop players during their time at University.
“We have been building the infrastructure around our teams including putting together a coaching team, a multi-disciplinary support team, a robust process for player development, and with the opening of the £12M Essex Sport Arena this year, the facilities commensurate with a top-class programme.
“Throughout the process, we have been supported by a fantastic partner in Sportsafe Ltd, the U.K. leaders in installing and maintaining basketball facilities and equipment.”
Essex join Durham Palatinates and Caledonia Pride in recent additions to the WBBL, which would extend to 12 teams for next season.