Ipswich Basketball Club’s Senior Women are just under a month away from their first competitive game of the 2018/19 season.
Nick Drane‘s squad go into the new season with the task of somehow trying to follow their historic 23-0, treble winning campaign last year. However, now promoted to WNBL Division I, and with a different roster from last season, Head Coach Drane is quick to point out that the new season presents some very different challenges – challenges he and his 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,” said Drane. “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 is also losing the services of sharp shooting guard Jess Baker, who is also off to university where she will continue her basketball alongside her studies at Edge Hill University.
While much has been made of Drane’s almost impossible task of replacing his outgoing players, one of the many perks of winning every competition you entered last season and developing some of the most talented young players in the country is that you will always attract new talent. Ipswich, via their Copleston based academy, have acquired the services of young internationals Becky Harwood-Bellis from Manchester and Charlotte Redhead from Southend. Both players are expected to come in and make an immediate impact at the senior level.
“Becky and Charlotte were both recruited for a reason,” continues Drane. “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 hardworking Phoebe Colton, who has played at regional level while learning her trade in Derby before her move to Ipswich.
Returning from last season will be captain Amy Linton, shooting guard Danni Cazey, inside presence Ines Bowman-Boyles, Great Britain international Esther Little, and of course National Player of the Year and winner of a quartet of MVP awards, Harriet Welham. Meanwhile, other junior players who played key roles for the senior team – Cameron Taylor-Willis and Ella Pearson – become full-time senior-level players. Also graduating from the junior programme are junior National Cup winners Kenzie Day and Nicole Aston while Drane has also drafted in fourteen-year-old Susannah Rafiu, a young talent that is being tipped for big things.
“Maya and Ash are never going to be replaced,” says Drane. “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 we’re 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 competitive games start, Ipswich will host WBBL side Durham Palatinates on Friday, September 21st at 6pm before they travel to Worcester Wolves on Sunday, September 23rd.
The games start for real on Saturday, September 29th when Ipswich host Oxford in the National League at 3pm.