Ipswich's growing Force back for 2019
BASKETBALL: Preparing for a Christmas break, Ipswich Force men's coach Chris Riches was confident of retaining his key players for next year's Queensland Basketball League campaign.
"We're really going to get into it during January but we've already started,'' Riches said.
"A lot of the guys are back doing individuals now . . . working in small group sessions to help build up their skill development.''
He expects the full Force squad to start doing gym work and scrimmaging together next month.
Ipswich-bred captain Jason Ralph is back along with vice-captain and powerhouse American import Kyle Harvey, who had an exceptional 2018 season.
Although Force have lost Garrett Hall, Riches hoped to have a second import secured in coming weeks to build on what was achieved this year.
"All of the key guys are back,'' Riches said.
"The starting core will be returning.
"It's really just a situation where we are consolidating that.
"With such a young group, it's really about just keeping everyone together and keeping them focused on some common goals and objectives.''
The Ipswich Force men finished in ninth place with eight wins and 10 losses, just missing out on making the 2018 playoffs.
Looking towards his second QBL season as Force head coach, Riches was encouraged how his side battled hard on the road late in the season.
"They showed that they are able to compete and able to play at this level,'' Riches said.
"I still want to see them having that belief that they can get that done.''
He wants to see that confidence and consistency grow next season.
Rising Ipswich players like Kane Bishop and Mitch Poulain will have key roles as they build on their 2018 progress.
The Ipswich State High School HPE teacher was planning a quiet Christmas at home before stepping up 2019 season preparations.
However, he's also been working with Ipswich's under-21 team in the Basketball Queensland Junior Basketball Competition that provides excellent development opportunities for players of the future.