Ipswich Basketball head coach in bullish mood ahead of home opener
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Basketball Club are bidding for promotion to the top league of the national game at the third time of asking this season. MARK HEATH caught up with coach Nick Drane and vice-captain Colin Dockrell
As usual, Ipswich Basketball head coach Nick Drane is in bullish mood.
It’s no surprise of course – this is the man who’s led a basketball revolution in the small Suffolk town, establishing the academy at Copleston as one of the most-respected in the country.
And just five years after launching their senior men’s side, his charges stand once more on the brink of promotion to Division One of the National Basketball League.
This season, which sees them host their first home game on Sunday, will be their third in Division Two after consecutive promotions up through Divisions Four and Three.
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They are, on paper at least, a side punching way above their weight – doing battle with British basketball powers like the Brixton Topcats, and facing teams with professional players and far bigger budgets.
And yet Drane has managed to build a fledgling powerhouse of a squad at Copleston, packed with players who could be earning professional wages elsewhere, and youngsters who are among the best in the country.
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Indeed, it was something of a surprise that the squad didn’t win promotion last year – they were the pre-season favourites – instead finishing third for the second straight season, a place away from another step up the leagues.
Undeterred, Drane has bolstered his ranks again this summer.
While high-flying human highlight film Luke Mascall-Wright has gone, in have come England international Taner Adu, 6ft 7ins lefty Grant Bangs and the multi-talented academy product Tyme Regent-Bascombe.
They join the likes of dominant 7-foot centre Leigh Greenan, explosive young guard Sam Newman, Ugandan international point guard Josh Johnson and the team captain, former England international Tom Sadler.
They look a force to be reckoned with. And Drane is content with his summer’s work.
e said: “Sam’s decided to stay an extra year and he’s really got the bit between his teeth.
“He took the league by storm last year and he’s probably got the biggest reputation of anyone on our team apart from a couple of the older guys – he’s the one that most teams will be scared of, along with big Greenan.
“Taner will be an absolute revelation. He brings a level of sophistication to the back court where, in the past couple of years, we’ve heaped a load of responsibility on Josh Johnson and people forget he’s only 22.
“Josh is an incredible talent but it’s a lot for a 22-year-old guy.
“Taner will bring that big brotherly figure to the back court.
“Two or three years ago he won MVP in the Division One play-off final. He’s a serious, serious player. Then the other two big pick ups are Tyme Regent-Bascombe, who is very, very athletic. He came through the academy then went off to Manchester university. He will give us a role player that we’ve not had before, and he jumps like he’s leaping off a trampoline. He’s a remarkable physical specimen.
“The other fella is Grant Bangs, who we’ve really fallen on our feet with. He’s a 6ft 7ins guy, left- handed, former pro in Iceland. He could start.
“We’ve recruited very well, and we’ve got a really deep bench now.
“On top of that we’ve got three guys in Josh, Tommy and Tanner who are, or who have been, senior internationals.”
Of the season ahead, Drane added: “We have a target on our back this year. We should be one of the favourites, but history tells us that the teams coming up – Liverpool and Nottingham this year – tend to be very good.
“We’ve got the best roster we’ve had since we’ve been in Division Two. I think we’re probably 15 points better than we’ve ever been before and we know the division now. People say that about Mick McCarthy, he knows how to get out of the Championship. Well we know this league now, people say it’s the hardest one to get out of but the goal has to be to get out of the division.
“The team that we have now, if we had last year, we would have won the league.
“We also have a massive chip on our shoulder this year – there’s a perception out there that we’ve thrown it away in the past couple of years, and I know that Tom, Josh and Colin all have chips on their shoulders, and Tanner has a thing about winning national titles, plus Sam is a year better.
“Then if Greenan comes to play, no-one can guard him. The only person who can stop Leigh is Leigh Greenan.
“We’ll be the team that people will have highlighted on their schedule this year, put it like that!”
It is a sentiment echoed by the team’s new vice-captain Colin Dockrell, a charismatic big man who leads Ipswich’s second unit off the bench.
“We are definitely capable of winning the league this year,” he said.
“The energy that we’re bringing already in training, from the second we’ve started, we’ve come in at a level that we’ve never been before.
“We’ve come in ready, and everything is working.
“We’ll definitely hit the ground running – it’s fallen into place a lot quicker than in previous seasons.”
The team are a group of which the town can be proud – and it seems locals are, regularly packing the small Copleston gym with crowds in excess of 250 fans.
And Drane, who repeated his call for an arena facility to be provided in Ipswich to cater for larger basketball crowds and other indoor sports, appealed for those who have yet to discover basketball to get involved this season.
He said: “I’d say to people who haven’t come to a game yet to give us a chance.
“You don’t even have to know anything about basketball to enjoy a game – who wouldn’t enjoy watching seven foot men sprint up and down the court and whack into each other?
“On top of that, there are plenty of football teams out there who don’t have three senior internationals playing!
“The level is really high, and the whole game experience is one that is very enjoyable.
“If Ipswich Town are away or you’re not a football fan and you’re bored on a Saturday, come down and watch a game, grab a beer or a glass of wine and watch National League basketball.
“We’re still just scratching the surface. The town has a chance to really back another sports team playing at a professional level. It’s something the town can be really proud of.”
Ipswich host the King’s Lynn Fury on Sunday at 4.45pm. Tickets are £5 for adults, £3 for under 18’s, £2 for under 11’s and £15 for families.