As the National Basketball League season winds down, Ipswich Basketball Club head into their final home game of the campaign this Saturday still in the hunt for playoff places.
It has been a rollercoaster year for the Copleston Sports Centre-based team. After restructuring the coaching staff in the summer, former assistant John Ellis took over as head coach for the year, joined by Rob Schatten and the returning Nick Newman as assistants.
There was even more drastic change to the playing roster, with initially only Cameron Hawes and Colin Dockrell remaining from last year’s rotation.
Ellis appreciates that the biggest challenge he faced this year was trying to rebuild the roster.
“We faced a huge turnover from last season, but after an open try-out in the summer we started to pick up a couple of guys and build,” he explains.
“It’s carried on during the season – we’ve lost players for various reasons, picked up some new ones, and as a result inconsistency has been a major part of the season and with two games left I can not honestly tell you our best line-up.
“Guys have stepped up at certain times during the season which has been great. But it’s a process and we will work it out.”
The first part of the season was a raging success, as through that roster turmoil Ipswich carved out a 5-4 record, and were 6-7 after their first thirteen games – an identical record to last season’s progress.
In 2018 the team has stuttered, losing one or two games from winning positions and have fallen to 7-13 with two games to play, but those within the club still consider this a tremendous achievement given the player turnover and the ever-improving standard of NBL Division II.
“I’m not sure I would classify it as an achievement, but then that’s just my competitive nature,” admits Ellis. “I thought we were capable of more, but I will say that my players have worked hard, stuck together, and become a genuine ‘team’. For their first year together, that’s impressive.”
Saturday is the last chance to see the team before September – please come down and get behind us! – John Ellis
With a raft of experienced seniors having left the programme, Ipswich have leaned on their younger players, and Ipswich Basketball Academy standouts Jonny Hall and Ben Winter have been at the forefront, along with IBA graduates Hawes and Rory Winter, who returned to the team after a spell in the USA.
And as he draws toward the end of his first season at the helm, Ellis is able to reflect on the season and how he has found the challenge.
“I have absolutely enjoyed the challenge of becoming a national league coach,” he says. “I knew it would be a challenge when I accepted the position.
“Having Coach Schatten and Coach Newman around has been great, we bounce ideas off each other and bring different understandings to the game. And the team was a pleasure to work with.
“The players and I have made it clear that we won’t get too high about a win, or too low about a loss. As I always stated during the season our “6th man”, the supporters, have been absolutely amazing during the season both home and away.
“We have the best fans in the division by an absolute mile, I’m certain of that.”
Ipswich close the book on the regular season next week at Birmingham Elite (pending a possible playoff appearance), but the last chance to see the team playing at Copleston will be this weekend, when Ellis’ men host a talented Thames Valley Cavaliers team who have already confirmed their promotion to Division I following two strong years in Division II. The game tips off at 5pm, and adult tickets are just £3.00 (children £1.00).
And Coach Ellis wants to see a huge crowd at the game.
“I really hope we can get everybody there on Saturday and everyone can come down to support the guys in their final home game of the season.
“We have had a lot of new faces to the team this year, and they have been blown away by your support and passion for IBC.
“Barring a playoff upset Saturday is the last chance to see the team before September – please come down and get behind us!”