Basketball prospects are flying high at Copleston

:Copleston High School is poised to welcome three more England internationals through its doors as the Ipswich Basketball Academy (IBA) continues to make giant strides.

Providing they achieve their grades, England Under-16 inter-national Karlynn Edgeller, plus boys Robinson Maka and Laurence Watsham – who have played for their country in younger age groups – will enrol at the school’s sixth form while aiming to progress on court too.

The trio will join fellow inter-nationals Joel Keeble, Ben Mead and Luke Mascall-Wright on the academy’s Advanced Apprentice-ship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme for elite athletes.

Only outstanding basketball academies can be awarded AASE status and the qualification at IBA, based at Copleston, is one of only 15 in the country and the only one in the Eastern region.

It provides the basketball academy students, with a realistic potential to make a career out of the sport, the training they require in areas such as fitness, conditioning and nutrition, as well as on-court aspects such as coaching and officiating.

Guided by England Under-16 assistant coach Nick Drane, who won a silver medal at last year’s European Championships, IBA Copleston compete in the England Basketball/BCS Premier U19 competition – the highest level of junior basketball competition in the UK –and are currently top of the league. They also provide a good source of players to Ipswich Basketball Club as a result of a partnership between the two.

“English basketball is not where it needs to be internationally but it is better than ever because of the Olympics and British basketball has received significant funding as the sport is seen as one that can blossom,” said Drane.

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“The AASE programme gives coaching a professionalism and provides a junior pathway.

“We are very proud that English basketball has identified ourselves as the regional centre of excellence. This is where all the local kids come and play.”

The likes of England Under-16 captain Mead and Keeble, who Drane says are part of a handful of players with a “legitimate chance of turning pro” have already benefited from the fledgling AASE programme, which was set up in September 2011.

“Ben does about 12 hours basketball contact time a week but then he also probably has four hours in the gym working on a specific programme set up by our strength and conditioning coach, Phil Green,” explained Drane.

“Then there is the analysis and the hours we will sit together assessing and analysing his performances on video tapes.

“We also have a link with Ipswich Basket-ball Club, which is probably one of the top five junior clubs in the country and players such as Ben also have excellent access to former Ipswich physio Dave Williams, so they are well looked after.”

Those not on the AASE programme but part of the IBA can still access services provided to the elite players.

Every student will hope to emulate Lee Greenan and Dylan Johns, who while not coming through the academy, progressed through the ranks at Ipswich Basketball Club and are now professionals in France and Spain respectively.

However, not everyone is so lucky and Drane is keen to stress that education comes first at Copleston, which also has a number of other sporting academies.

“We are not only producing excellent athletes but also a first-class education,” he said. “We are academic first and basketball second and a lot of the students use that as a carrot because they are so enthusiastic about the sport.”

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