Joining cats and dogs as Leopards and Wolves bring top flight basketball to Oaklands
- Credit: Archant
One of the most famous names in British basketball is no more – but the Leopards legacy will still live on after a merger with Oaklands Wolves.
Essex & Herts Leopards trained at Oaklands College last year as well as playing many of their National Basketball League Division One home games there, but they will now be a full part of the Wolves who also run a WBBL side as well as nine junior sides and several teams in academy competitions.
The decision, born out of necessity, means that the side will bring top-flight men’s basketball to the city for the first time.
Wolves’ director of basketball Michael Ball said: “We have been working closely with Leopards for the past couple of seasons and now is the right time to progress forwards and bring the team fully into the Oaklands College Wolves family.
“We have some major plans over the coming years and this now enables us to provide a full player pathway on the men’s side in the same way as the women. Our young talented male basketball players will now have senior men to aspire to play for and in particular adds a new momentum to the academy.”
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He acknowledged the work of Leopards general manager Dave Ryan and his delight that he will stay on with the Wolves.
For Ryan the move is bittersweet, ending 25 seasons of Leopards basketball, but he knows the move had to happen.
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He said: “It’s become clear over the last couple of years that we simply couldn’t continue with our current model. Regular availability of venues has been a growing problem at a time when it’s getting increasingly expensive to be competitive in Division One.
“I think we should be immensely proud of what we achieved since we restarted our club in 2004, with six national titles and a reputation as stalwart in Division One.
“Even last season when we looked dead and buried, we turned things around because we were determined to finish our last season in the top flight.
“When I look at all of the clubs who’ve come and gone, we really achieved something special and just because the name is changing doesn’t diminish that.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped the club over the years, especially Roger Davinson at the Brentwood Centre, it’s been a a team effort.
“We’re about to start a new chapter and I’m sure the club will thrive with its new name and home.
“Oaklands are a fantastic club. We’ve worked with them for several years and our team have now become part of something bigger. I hope Leopards fans will come to St Albans and support the new-look club.”