In February 2012, it became reality that National League Basketball could return to East Hertfordshire for the 2012-2013 season as a meeting took place at Wodson Park Sports Centre. It was then announced that the group intended to form a club under the name of Ware Rebels – a name with a history of national league success. After a period of successful discussions with Wodson Park and the application process with England Basketball, it was finalised in May 2012 that Ware Rebels Basketball Club will compete in the England Basketball League for the first time since 2004, playing out of Wodson Park Sports Centre in Ware, the spiritual home of Rebels Basketball.
Ware Rebels competed as Senior Men in EBL Division 4 South East and U15 Boys in EBL South II and had a solid first season back in the league set up. For 2013-2014 an u16 boys B side will be added along side the senior men and U16 Boys. Off the court, Rebels Basketball continues to re-establish itself within the local community of East Hertfordshire and will work in partnership with two local sports companies – BCW Sports and Russell Hoops Basketball as well as other partners – to develop its junior programme and community links.
Ware Rebels and basketball have a long history throughout the National leagues, which has included re-locations, renaming and merging staring many years ago when the original Rebels franchise, moved to Ware from Watford in 1991.
The Rebels team consistently finished in the top three of NBL Division 1 and were crowned Champions in 1997, after finishing two points ahead of Plymouth Raiders with an overall record of 21 wins and 5 losses. Following their most successful season, the team was uprooted and moved to Stevenage to become the Stevenage Rebels, though the success didn’t follow and the franchise would eventually relocate again in 1999 to become Worthing Rebels.
Following the Rebels’ move to Stevenage, a brand-new team, Ware Fire, was established and admitted to NBL Division 3 for the 1997-98 season. In their rookie season they finished 7th out of 11 teams with an amicable 9-17 record. A mild improvement to 6th place in the 1998-99 season was followed with a successful campaign in 1999-00, finishing in 4th place (16-8) and earning promotion to Division 2, although a League restructure that followed that season, Division 2 became the third tier (behind the conference and division 1). The 2000-01 season saw the club compete in Division 2 for the first time and also brought a new name for the club with the return of the Rebels name following the original club’s rebranding from Worthing Rebels to Worthing Thunder in the same year. The reincarnated Ware Rebels went on to have their most successful season to date, finishing third in the Division with 17 wins and 7 losses and earning promotion to Division 1.
Rebels continued their rise through the League in the 2001-02 season, competing for the first time in Division 1. Another 3rd place finish in the League with a 16-6 record and another promotion followed.
Ware’s first appearance in the new NBL Conference for the 2002-03 season saw them pitted against much tougher opponents in the second-tier league and unsurprisingly Rebels successes of the previous season’s were not replicated. Finishing 10th out of the 12 teams competing, Ware could only put together 4 victories out of 22 games, whilst missing out on the Play-off’s for the first time in the club’s history.
The 2003-04 season would see Rebels fare much better in the newly rebranded English Basketball League (EBL) Division 1, following a change in administration from the now defunct National Basketball League. In the 12-team competition, Ware managed to finish in 8th place with 9 wins and 13 defeats. The season saw the start of a new partnership with the University of Hertfordshire, which saw the first team use the venue facilities of the brand-new Hertfordshire Sports Village as well as their traditional Wodson Park home.
However the season will be best remembered for three records broken by the Rebels, thanks in-part to the three-point shooting abilities of American-import Michael Williamson. In Rebels’ 117-87 National Cup first round win over Northampton Neptunes, Williamson scored a National Cup record 13 three-pointers, scoring two within the first 10 seconds of the game, whilst the team broke the record for a team effort, scoring a 20 three-pointers in total. Two months later, Williamson along with teammates Hayden Herrin and Ben Wallis, combined to score 21 three-pointers in a 116-105 defeat to Worthing Thunder, setting a new NBL/EBL record.
It was formally announced in May 2004 that the ‘Leopards Alive’ organisation (a supporters group set-up in September 2003 following the demise of the two time BBL champions London/Essex Leopards, aiming to resurrect the Leopards franchise) and Ware Rebels were merging together for the 2004-05 season, and be rebranded as the Essex & Herts Leopards, taking the names of both counties (Essex and Hertfordshire) they would be representing.