Force with Allen as Heat turns up
WHEN Ipswich Force centre Ben Allen lines up against the Townsville Heat tomorrow there won't be any question where his allegiances lie.
The imposing 209cm, or six-foot-10 tall, 105kg Townsville Crocs NBL centre might be a North Queensland star during the NBL season but for the next few months it's all about Ipswich.
The Melbourne-born player has made the move to south after being hand picked by Shane Heal as the front court leader for the Force this season.
For Allen, the chance to work with a four-time Olympian was a big drawcard and the primary reason he chose to head south for the winter.
Nearly a month into training and playing with the Force, he is confident his team can challenge for the QBL title.
"I love it up in Townsville but I wanted to get out of Townsville for the off-season," he said.
"It's a great group of guys here and a lot of talent, but best of all this is a hard working team.
"I think in the QBL it's often more about work rate than talent that gets results."
While Allen's powerful frame towers above that of his team mates, he believes he will have plenty of support doing the bump and grind work for the Force this season.
"I think we have a well balanced team," he said.
"Myself, Robbo (Robbie Manson) and Stolly (Ryan Stolberg) can all play in the post.
"We also have a very strong back court so I think we'll be pretty competitive."
Heal too is more than happy to have enticed the versatile big man to Ipswich.
The two first met at an Australian Boomers training camp after Allen had returned from a five-year stint in the USA playing college basketball with Arizona University and St Marys College.
Heal liked what he saw then and after signing on to coach the Force this year, made Allen is number one recruiting target.
"He was a great signing for us I was pumped when he agreed to come," Heal said.
"I'd been speaking to him since Christmas so it took a fair period of time.
"His main strength is having that height and being able to shoot from the perimeter.
"But the Townsville Crocs really want him playing inside with his size which is really going to fit in with where he can play with Ipswich."
While Allen is still finding his feet at NBL level, Heal feels the former Institute of Sport scholarship holder will make plenty of waves at state level.
After five years overseas, Heal said Allen may also fly under the radar of opposition teams.
"Most people don't know a lot about him," Heal said. "But he's a legitimate star at this level and I think he'll be a very good NBL player in years to come.
"Coming to play for us I really want him to dominate at this level and get the confidence for next year in the NBL
"He's a very smart player, good guy and passionate about the game.
Allen will be looking to repay Heal's faith against the team he played limited games for last year.
After two wins from as many starts already this season, the Force are beginning to show promise as serious title contender.
Tomorrow's clash with the undefeated Heat gives Heal the chance to find out where his team sits against one of the benchmark teams in the QBL.
QBL tomorrow: Ipswich Force v Townsville Flames at Cotton On Foundation Stadium, Booval. Women tip-off: Noon. Men tip-off: 2pm.