Why African basketballer making great strides
IN his fourth season with Ipswich Force, James Kuon is one of those players every team needs.
He's eager to learn, puts in the hard yards and gets his job done without any fuss or fanfare.
Preparing for tonight's Queensland Basketball League clash at Llewellyn Stadium, Kuon continues to win accolades from Ipswich coaches he has served.
After being praised by former Force mentors like Mick Conlon and Colby Stefanovic, the African born and bred basketballer has quickly secured another fan.
Current Force head coach Chris Riches is delighted to have a player like Kuon in his line-up.
"James adds a lot of value to our group,'' Riches said.
"He's a hard worker. He's one of those quiet guys that keeps doing the things that you need to do.
"From our point of view, the best is yet to come.''
Kuon migrated to Australia in 2002 with a limited childhood memory of his upbringing in Sudan.
However, he took to basketball quickly in 2007, using his athleticism to advantage.
He's spent 94 minutes on court, scoring 33 points in his four games this season.
Riches said developing as a player was important for Kuon because "he wants to have an important role within the group and he has the ability to do that.
"He's very confident at what he does and he's always looking for ways to help us compete,'' Riches said.
"He's one of those guys who thrives on competition.''
The Ipswich Force men's and women's teams return to their home court tonight after successful back-to-back wins over Brisbane Capitals and Southern Districts.
Playing tonight's opponents Toowoomba gives both Force teams an opportunity to strengthen their positions, especially the Ipswich women who are unbeaten after four matches.
However, ever-busy Riches provided a valuable insight in- to his team's mindset managing a shorter preparation this week.
After a three-point, last-gasp shot to seal victory last Sunday, the players had to refocus quickly on what they need to prepare for tonight.
"Winning makes it all easier if you get through the difficult times that you have week-to- week,'' Riches said.
"At the same time, the guys are just gradually working on the things that they need to work on.
"It's a process we go through each week now and we're really just looking to try and reinforce that.
"Each week, we have got weights on Monday and training on Tuesday and Thursday.
"There's a lot of stuff that goes into it that you don't see when not directly involved with the team.
"This week has been a little bit more challenging because of the scheduling that we've had to deal with.
"It's a tight turnaround when you've got all those things to do.''
However, Riches said his improving Ipswich team was up to the challenge.
"When you're going through the process of refining what you're doing week-to-week, day-to-day, you just kind of find those things that are really important during that time period,'' he said.
"We talk about that a lot as a team.''
The men's battle with Toowoomba tips off at 8.30pm.
With his team progressing well in third place, Ipswich Force women's coach Brad George was keen to consolidate in tonight's 6.30pm match at Llewellyn Stadium.
His only concern was American import Amanda "AJ'' Johnson, who was ill last week but battled through to play another fine game in Force's win over Southern Districts last Sunday.
"She's still not 100 percent but she's better than what she was,'' George said. "Hopefully by Friday, she's a lot better.
"It's definitely a good chance to test a few different things and also hopefully get the opportunity to get some minutes into our bench . . . to see what they are capable of.''
Force, Townsville and South West Metro are the only undefeated teams in the women's league.
QBL women: Tonight (6.30pm) - Ipswich Force v Toowoomba Mountaineers.
QBL men: Tonight (8.30pm) - Ipswich Force v Toowoomba Mountaineers.
Both matches at Llewellyn Stadium, Booval.