Women’s basketball in the UK gets a massive boost on Saturday with the launch of the WBBL with the new league making a mass debut at the central hub of Loughborough University over two days.

The eight teams involved will start off as semi-pro but there are plans to make the domestic competition fully professional within five years, in parallel with the BBL.

Sheffield Hatters, long the dominant force, will start as favourites but they will have challenges from the other seven sides: Cardiff Archers, Leicester Riders, Sevenoak Suns, Northumbria, Manchester Mystics, Brixton Topcats, Barking Abbey Crusaders and Leeds Beckett University.

“With the start of the highly anticipated new WBBL season only a day away, the realisation of a new dawn for women’s basketball in the UK is at hand,” Nottingham Wildcats coach Dave Greenaway told the league’s website.

“For all the teams coming together to work as a single entity and everyone who have worked so diligently behind the scenes, this weekend is a momentous occasion for the league and the future of women’s basketball.

“Now it’s down to all the clubs, coaches and players to continue to push the envelope to promote the league and provide a viable product on the court that will inspire not only the commercial community to support the clubs and the league, but also young female players who will look to the WBBL as the league they aspire to play in as a professional.”

A number of the clubs have brought in imports to strengthen their challenge with Manchester – led by ex-GB international Julie Page – landing guard Shantrell Moss and forward Briana McKellery to add to their core.

The long-term benefits, it is hoped, will be felt throughout the sport.

“The goal for this year is to build a solid team of players that are going to be around for a long time,” said coach Rob Fairley.

“An average practice for us will see around six to seven under-18s on the floor. I think we have the right mix of older players that can nurture the younger girls.

“In terms of wins and losses this year I don’t really want to make a prediction, but what I can say is we have a solid team that will be together for many years.”

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