Talented Ipswich teenager crafting skills in US
BASKETBALL: Halfway across the world is a young Ipswich talent working day and night to improve his game.
Standing at 197cm, teenager Cooper Ward is a young small forward hungry to make a name for himself among US college scouts.
The former St Edmunds student has been calling Atlanta, Georgia home since January 4, practising and playing harder than ever.
"I've been playing basketball and practising every single day,” Ward said.
"We are on a pretty tight schedule with no mucking about, you have to be at practice ready to go on time otherwise there is punishments.
"Everyone is always working hard, which makes me go harder.”
Moving from playing against Australians to Americans is a big step for any young Australian basketballer.
However, Raceview-based Ward is tackling this change in environment full of confidence. "I've already learned so much on and off the court,” the 17-year-old said.
"At first it was hard to adjust because everyone is so physical but after the first three or four games I adjusted and started to play my own game.
"The experience for me so far has been amazing.”
Gaining the attention of US scouts and coaches is Ward's ultimate goal during his five-month trip abroad with a college scholarship beckoning.
Every minute training and playing is just another moment to impress for Ward who has placed a high importance on losing weight and gaining muscle to match the uber athletic American style of play.
"I've gotten so much better and I'm keen to take what I've learnt and use it back home,” Ward said.
Despite currently living so far away, Cooper hasn't forgotten where it all started for him.
"Ipswich Basketball has been a massive help in my development,” Ward said.
"I started playing at Ipswich when I was only three-years-old and have never left.
"I've grown so many friendships for life at that stadium.”
"Chris Riches (head coach of Ipswich Force) has improved me so much in a short amount of time and he is always willing to help me with what I need.''
Ward will be travelling to Charlotte, North Carolina in April to continue his exposure to the American basketball system before returning home in May.