THEY will be in the BBL next season. Worthing Thunder heard this week that they will be "promoted" from the English League because their application to join the elite competition in the country has been now officially accepted.
Thunder were EBL Division 1 champions in 2005-06 and 2006-07. They finished third last season and lost eight games.
In 2006-07, they completed an EBL Division 1 double when they added the playoffs crown to their regular season league title, having been runners-up the previous season.
In each of the last two seasons, they have been runners-up in the National Cup and National Trophy, having won the Trophy in 2003-04.
The region has a long and successful BBL history, but has not been represented in Britain's top flight since the departure of the Brighton Bears, formerly Worthing, in 2006.
The Thunder were one of four teams who appplied for next season and the only ones accepted by the BBL's Franchise Committee. Other parties are being consulted about the possibility of entry into Britain's top flight in the 2009-10 season.
The BBL Chief Operations Officer, Andy Webb, stated: "Worthing Thunder are a very strong addition to the BBL. They have an established programme and a track record of success – both at the senior level and with the junior programmes that are now considered to be so important to BBL clubs.
"The club has a strong foundation in the local community with a number of successful community initiatives already in place.
"Through their recent forays in the BBL Trophy, it is evident that they have the capability to compete at the top level of the professional game here in the UK, and their collection of EBL trophies in recent seasons is certainly an impressive one.
"Franchise development is key to the league's strategy for developing the game of basketball going forward and we are delighted to welcome the Thunder into the league, and pleased that the South-East will once more get the chance to savour BBL basketball.
"The BBL will provide the necessary support to the club to ensure that their transition to the top division is as smooth as possible, and I would like to wish them the best of luck for the new campaign."
Frank Gainsbury, Worthing Thunder's Chairman, commented: "The club has made great strides since its formation some nine years ago and the continued successes achieved during this time in the EBL have provided a solid basis for progression into the top basketball league in the UK.
"As a club we are mindful of the improvements we have to make both on and off the court to step up to the BBL, but we are sure that that this can be effectively achieved with the enthusiastic support of our loyal fans and our management team.
"We are looking forward to the challenges ahead and we know that our fans cannot wait to see BBL basketball back again in Worthing after so many years. Next season will be a landmark for the club and we hope that Thunder will continue to develop and grow into a successful BBL franchise.
"Our continued development of an already successful junior programme, and the ongoing opportunities to link into other community-related initiatives are essential requirements for the club to meet their targets. We consider that it is essential that the club continues to evolve - not only at the top level - but in all areas of our community.
"We look forward to contributing to the future success of the BBL and to basketball in Worthing and Sussex generally."
The Thunder organisation has long believed that they could compete at the top level, and last season's roster boasted some of the foremost talent from their region, many of whom have BBL experience. That includes Pat Bates, Daniel Hildreth, and Ciaran Burns, and Dan Midgley, brother of Everton and GB star Richard.
Other recent BBL stars have also featured for the club, including Gaylon Moore, who spent four years there, captained them, and won EBL Player of the Year in 2003, before joining the Kularoos Plymouth Raiders in 2005 and being the BBL's fourth leading rebounder this year.
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