New-look Ipswich Basketball Women's side ready for 'fantastic journey' at next level
Ipswich Women’s Basketball head coach Nick Drane is looking forward to another ‘fantastic journey’ as his squad prepare to tip off in WNBL Division One after their remarkable perfect season last year.
The team go into the new season in the higher league with the task of somehow trying to follow their historic 23-0 treble winning season with a much-changed side.
And Drane was quick to point out that the new season presents some very different challenges – but challenges he and he team are relishing.
“Last season was magical, a year that for many reasons, both on and off the court, will never be experienced by any of us again,” he said. “However, we have to move forward and we have a really talented group of players this year, and it’s going to be another fantastic journey.”
From last season’s National Cup winners, key starters Maya Price and Ashleigh Pink have both moved away to university.
Price will play a key role for the University of Northumbria in the BUCS competition while playing for Newcastle Eagles in the WBBL, while Pink takes her considerable talents to Barry University in Miami on a full scholarship.
The team has also lost the services of sharp shooting guard Jess Baker, who heads to Edge Hill University.
While their losses will be felt, Drane believes their replacements are capable of filling their trainers.
Via their Copleston-based academy, the club have acquired the services of young internationals Becky Harwood-Bellis from Manchester and Charlotte Redhead, from Southend.
Both players have junior international experience, and both are expected to come in and make an immediate impact at the senior level.
Drane said: “Becky and Charlotte were both recruited for a reason. Both have the right characteristics of what I look for in an Ipswich player. Very high character, great work ethic, very talented and most importantly – great people. I think both of these girls will make an impact and will be very popular with the Ipswich crowd.”
Also joining the programme will be the hard-working Phoebe Colton, who has played at regional level while learning her trade in Derby.
Returning from last season’s all conquering squad will be captain Amy Linton, shooting guard Danni Cazey, inside presence Ines Bowman-Boyles, Great Britain international Esther Little and National Player of the Year and winner of a quartet of MVP awards, Harriet Welham.
Cameron Taylor-Willis and Ella Pearson, junior players in last season’s squad, become full-time senior-level players, while junior National Cup winners Kenzie Day and Nicole Aston step up, as does Susannah Rafiu, aged just 14 – a young talent tipped for big things.
Drane said: “Maya and Ash are never going to be replaced. But the rest of the team is a year older, a year wiser and more experienced.
“The beauty of having such a young team is that their progress is so rapid. As crazy as it sounds, we will be even younger than we were last season, and with that youth comes so much excitement.
“Everyone is aware of Esther’s talents, but I’m expecting a break out season from Cameron, Ella is certainly ready for the next step and I think we are all really intrigued to see how Susannah develops as the season goes on.”
Before the season tips off, Ipswich host WBBL side Durham Palatinates on Friday, September 21 at 6pm before they travel to Worcester Wolves on Sunday, September 23.
The games start for real on Saturday, September 29, when Ipswich host Oxford in the National League at 3pm.
- To find out more about the team, visit www.ipswichbasketball.net and follow them on Twitter @IpswichBball.