No promotion talk at Ipswich Basketball as season reaches the halfway stage

Sam Newman leads the Ipswich scoring charts with 18ppg

Sam Newman leads the Ipswich scoring charts with 18ppg - Credit: Archant

Depending on which way you look at it, Ipswich Basketball Club are either lying joint second in NBL Division Two or are currently sitting in mid-table with a record of six wins and four losses.

Leigh Greenan averages 10 boards a game

Leigh Greenan averages 10 boards a game - Credit: Archant

Either way, the team is in the midst of a fascinating season in which just two points separates the top seven teams, with half a season’s worth of games still to play.

Ipswich started pre-season with good reason to feel confident.

Ryan Wilson was recruited and had become the team’s first-ever American import player, Taner Adu, a former England senior international, had been signed, as had Tyme Regent-Bascombe from Manchester Magic, while u19 National player-of-the-year Sam Newman had opted to stay in England for another 12 months before embarking on the next stage of his basketball career on the other side of the Atlantic.

Veteran skipper and last season’s Most Valuable Player Tom Sadler was again returning, as was dynamic guard Josh Johnson and of course the presence of seven-foot professional Leigh Greenan, the division’s biggest and most dominant physical player, was another boost. However, fast-forward six months and things have not exactly gone to plan. Wilson never played a game for Ipswich, falling foul of the Home Office’s new guidelines regarding non-EEA players.

Josh Johnson averages six assists a game

Josh Johnson averages six assists a game - Credit: Archant

Adu left the team due to other commitments, Johnson and Sadler both missed games with injuries, while Greenan has succumbed to a knee problem that has seen him play a far more limited role than usual.

The team’s major bright spot in the first half of the season has been the emergence of Caleb Fuller at senior level. Fuller, at just 16 years of age has taken advantage of the injury crisis and has established himself as a key member of the team, averaging nine points and three rebounds for the season. Despite the injuries, Ipswich have found themselves to be as competitive as ever. Their 6-4 record has them in a position to put pressure on the teams above them and if they can string a few wins together, they could quickly find themselves back in the promotion hunt. However, Coach Nick Drane is adamant promotion is not currently on the agenda.

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He said: “We are not talking about promotion.

“We’ve talked about promotion for two and a half seasons and its put a crazy amount of pressure on myself, my staff and the players and I also think it’s put something of a target on our backs because teams always bring their ‘A-Game’ against Ipswich.

“We have to remember we were in Division Four just a few seasons ago and we have come a very long way in a very short space of time.”

Ipswich began the season with two wins, against Worcester Wolves and Eastside Eagles before dropping two games in one weekend.

Loughborough beat Ipswich by 17 with a line-up that Drane is adamant is the best in the league, while Derbyshire Arrows came to Copleston and stole a two-point win behind an outstanding performance from their American Professional, Alex Burt.

The team then strung a four-game winning streak together to get themselves back into a strong position. Home wins against Liverpool and East London as well as away wins at Brixton and London Westside had the team in good shape.

However, a narrow home loss to the much-improved London Pioneers followed by a 12-point road loss to Solent Kestrels has the team at this point.

Ipswich have been consistent in that they have beaten the teams that sit below them in the league and have lost to the teams above them.

Should they be able to rectify that in the second half of the season then who knows?

Division Two is a fascinating league this season. Unlike Ipswich’s previous two seasons when they were one of three stand-out teams in the league, this season there are seven teams that are capable of beating anyone on their day.

Drane said: “I think Loughborough are the favorites for the division – if they can put the team they had against us on the floor each week then nobody will match up with them.

“That second spot is up for grabs but if I was a betting man I would put my money on London Pioneers.

“I think had we been at full strength this season we would have won two, possibly three more games at this stage.

“However, we are just going to get on with it, it’s all part of the journey.”