Leigh Greenan signs pro deal with Ipswich Basketball Club – more could follow

Leigh Greenan in action

Leigh Greenan in action - Credit: Archant

Giant centre Leigh Greenan has become Ipswich Basketball Club’s first ever professional player – and head coach Nick Drane says he could be the first of many following another ‘landmark moment’ for the ambitious programme.

In 2005, a junior boy’s team – known as the Tomcats – was launched by the Copleston-based club. A decade later, following a fairytale rise that is the stuff of movie scripts, the town has a men’s team playing at Division Two level, a thriving academy and growing financial backing.

Playing in British basketball’s top-tier, alongside the Manchester and London big boys, and signing top talent from the United States once seemed a pipedream. Now it’s tantalisingly close to becoming a reality.

“This is another special landmark moment in what has been an incredible journey for this basketball club,” enthused Drane, speaking after 7ft powerhouse Greenan, who hails from Colchester, put pen-to-paper.

“We could have gone out and brought in some superstar from overseas, but it seemed fitting that – 10 years on from launching the Tomcats – the club’s first ever men’s professional was one of our own.

“The plan is to bring in other guys as well and to keep moving this programme forwards. Hopefully Leigh will be the first of many.”

Greenan, now 25, was part of that original Tomcats team, joining at the age of 15. He went away for a three-year spell, to play for the London Leopards and professionally in France for St Dizier, but returned to his roots when Ipswich launched a men’s team in 2011.

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Back-to-back promotions followed, with the team having just finished third in Division Two – narrowly missing out on promotion to the top-flight – for the second successive season. Crowds of more than 300 regularly attend matches, with all the razzmatazz of entrance music and half-time entertainment, at Copleston High School.

“I used to go and coach the junior national teams, say I was from Ipswich and kids would ask me ‘where’s that?’ Now I can walk into a sports hall in Liverpool and everyone immediately knows all about us,” said Drane. “Outside of Manchester I would say Ipswich is now the biggest place to for a kid to play basketball in this country. We’re one of the big boys.

“We’ve got past the stage where we’re begging sponsors for a few quid here and there. People are now coming to us because they know the national profile we’ve got.”

He added: “I’ve had a lot of pro players contact me since Lee’s deal was announced, but we’re not going to just sign anyone that e-mails us with some impressive statistics.

“You are allowed two non-EU players and that’s something we may look at further down the line, but producing our own players from within remains the priority. We can’t forget what’s got us to this stage.”

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