GALLERY: Ipswich Basketball Club 2013/14 season so far – a third straight promotion beckons

(L-R) Ipswich captain Tom Sadler, head coach Nick Drane and star big man Leigh Greenan

(L-R) Ipswich captain Tom Sadler, head coach Nick Drane and star big man Leigh Greenan

Ipswich Basketball Club senior men’s team are halfway through their first season in Division Two of the English Basketball League. Having shocked the basketball community by winning consecutive promotions from Divisions Four and Three, the team have already qualified for the semi-finals of a national cup and remain in contention for yet another promotion this year. MARK HEATH caught up with trail-blazing head coach Nick Drane for his thoughts on the season so far.

New player Josh Johnson has excelled

New player Josh Johnson has excelled - Credit: Archant

Nick Drane always wants more.

Despite the fact his Ipswich squad sit tied for fifth in a league they have no right, financially, to be able to compete in, and will play in the semi-final of the Patron’s Cup next month, a game away from a national final, the ever-competitive Drane is still restless.

He enjoys the wins, sure, but you get the impression that the losses live far longer in his memory. And he still thinks both he and his team are capable of more.

“It’s an odd one,” Drane says, from his office in the basketball academy at Ipswich’s Copleston High School, where the club’s teams play their home games.

“If you’d have told me at the start of the season, given the players that we lost in the off-season, that we’d be where we are now I’d have snapped your hand off.

“I’m absolutely over the moon with where we are, but there’s a sense of frustration in that we can beat all the teams below us in the league, but have narrowly lost to the teams above us.

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“Derby and Huddersfield are two teams that on paper are supposed to beat everybody so you live with those losses, but the loss to Eastside at the Copper Box (68-66) was suicidal, and Brixton (68-64) just took over in the last minute.

“I believe in my team and our destiny is still in our own hands, but if we want to win the league then we can’t afford to lose another game.”

The fact that Drane even talks about his team winning the league is testament to his sheer bloody mindedness and strength of will – traits he passes onto his teams.

Because Ipswich are an amateur club competing against well-financed, well-established outfits on a weekly basis. No Ipswich players get paid to play, and they only train together once a week.

Yet, if they can finish in the league’s top two – still very much a possibility – they will automatically be promoted to Division One. In fact, even third place could be good enough for promotion this season as two D1 teams will be joining the British Basketball League come the end of 2013/2014.

“Second place is do-able, but there’s a chance – given our infrastructure – that if we finish third we can make a good case for promotion,” said Drane.

“The chemistry in this team is incredible. The only issue that we have at this level is that we only train once a week. Derby, for example, train four times a week.

“But, as ever, if someone wants to write us a cheque for £2,000 that would make a huge difference!”

Looking towards the rest of the season, this Sunday’s home game with the table-topping Derby Trailblazers couldn’t get much bigger – and will go a long way to deciding whether the promotion dream lives on or dies for another season.

“Derby come to us having just spanked Huddersfield and thinking they can beat anyone,” said Drane. “We beat them in the Patron’s Cup – and really beat them up – so they will be itching for revenge.

“For us now every single game is the biggest of the year – we have to beat Derby.

“The crowd at Ipswich is fantastic and they are very loyal – we’re hoping for a big crowd again on Sunday and as ever I’ll appeal to the Ipswich public to come and watch us. Win or lose, we’re entertaining.”

So what would Drane, the man who is never satisfied, consider to be a success come season’s end?

“If we can finish in the top four in the league and get a home draw in the play-offs, plus play in a national final, that would have been beyond anyone’s expectations pre-season,” he said.

And then he adds: “I want to hold up some silverware at the end of this season.”

You wouldn’t bet against it.

? Ipswich host the Derby Trailblazers at Copleston High School in Ipswich on Sunday. Tip-off is 4.30pm.

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