‘Powerhouse’ aims as Ipswich basketball plots expansion
FRESH from a year of positive growth, Ipswich Basketball officials are aiming to expand and reach exciting new heights.
Re-elected Ipswich Basketball Association (IBA) president Chris Riches was clear about the future direction his progressive committee is focused on.
"Ultimately over the next five years, we want to have a situation where we grow into one of the powerhouse sports in Ipswich and dominate the landscape sporting wise,'' Riches said.
"We think we've got a lot of room to grow and we want to build another four courts.
"We're focused and we're laser point in exactly how we are going to get there and what we've got to do.''
With IBA's increase in numbers to more than 1000 members this year, Riches said the association was tracking well to pursue its stadium expansion plans.
IBA owns a parcel of land at Booval at the back of where the stadium is situated.
"From an association point of view, it's all about growth,'' Riches said, planning a major new year drive into schools and bolstering community activities.
"We really want to get on the front foot and grow our association over the next one to three years.
"Then in that final time period, we're looking to get plans out there and gain support at both the state and federal level.
"You've got to do it because the stadium has been up and running for about 60 odd years.
"It's a situation where we're looking for what that next chapter is going to look like.''
Despite the impact of COVID-19, Ipswich basketball finished the year with some fine accomplishments.
"There's been a lot of positives taken out of it from both a team perspective and an association perspective,'' Riches said.
Having both Ipswich Force teams qualify for Queensland State League finals was high on the list.
"Our overall performance in regards to making playoffs was pretty significant,'' said Riches, who is also the Force men's head coach.
"It's been a while since the men's team has been able to make it to that type of level.
"In that though is having a player of Nathan Sobey's character and talent that has come to the association. That was a pretty significant coup for us in regards to having him come on board and be part of what we are doing here in this region.
"We are constantly working hard on a number of different things that we are doing on a day-to-day basis to help the sport grow.''
Preparing for a family holiday in northern NSW, Riches said the focus in early January would turn quickly to next year's NBL1 North competition postponed this year.
Force is fielding men's and women's teams in the revamped state league series set to start in mid-May.
Riches is eager to keep in contact with his players while assessing the availability of overseas imports.
Recently married American Kyle Harvey remains high of the Force recruitment list.
However, with all that happening and the international travel restrictions, Harvey may remain at home next year.
Despite that, Riches was confident Harvey would do what he could to help Ipswich in its future import negotiations.
"He's a big fan of our region, our association and just our country in general,'' Riches said.
"From my point of view, you can't have a better ambassador in the US than what Kyle Harvey is.''
Recently appointed Force women's coach Brady Walmsley is also actively scouting for new talent to bolster his team's 2020 achievements.
Riches praised his staff for dealing with the COVID challenges this year.
"From the time where the State Government opened up indoor sporting facilities, we essentially only had three nights off because of COVID-related situations,'' he said.
Riches said sign-ons for Ipswich's 2021 competition are planned for late January.
With Ipswich competition resuming in early February, Riches is firm in what tops his 2021 wishlist.
"I want to see us just starting to really enjoy the fruits of a lot of the hard work that we've been doing,'' he said.
"Probably over the last 12 months, it's been a real struggle and there's been a lot of people that have done a lot of things behind the scenes.
"We have turned a corner and are really starting to tick along.
"There's a lot of good stuff but at the same time there's always improvements.''
That's where IBA's five-year expansion plan begins to take shape.