Why Ipswich's QBL hopes have risen over Easter
ONE is a stalwart still commanding incredible respect. The other is a second season state league player bringing valuable skills.
Together, they complete the Ipswich Force's major roster a week out from the start of a new Queensland Basketball League season.
Vice-captain Kyle Harvey and former US college player Josh Spiers are back training with the Ipswich Force team after being interstate or overseas in the off-season.
With Ipswich preparing to host Mackay in their 2019 QBL season-opener on April 28 head coach Chris Riches has an added reason to enjoy his Easter break.
Having a full complement of state league regulars to work with before the season starts is a huge advantage.
Harvey is preparing for his sixth season in Force colours having returned from his US base in Corning, Arkansas.
Spiers spent the off-season playing in the Northern Territory domestic competition a year after completing his US College commitments.
"I think his team ended up winning the comp during the season so he's done quite well and he's back now,'' Riches said of the former Townsville player.
"Josh is a key piece for us.
"He brings a lot of experience in the sense of playing in QBL systems.
"He's a quality player and a quality guy for us. He's got a fantastic shot from the perimeter as well as being able to play good containment defence and so forth.''
The Force coach also holds Harvey in the highest regard for what he has done playing for Ipswich and helping the Ipswich Basketball Association off the court with clinics and development.
"He's come back . . . and he's doing, really really well,'' Riches said. "In the couple of trial games that he's had so far since he's returned, he's getting better with each game.
"It's always a challenge for guys when they're coming back from the States but this is now Kyle's sixth season with us.
"It's been impressive having a guy with his calibre coming back on a regular basis to the program. It means a lot to our local guys.''
Among those younger Ipswich players is Cooper Ward, who is being blooded for the QBL. He returns from the US next month.
Having started his pre-season earlier this year, Riches was comfortable with how Force were progressing towards their new season.
However, he added final trials against Southern Districts and the Brisbane Capitals before Easter to complete the warm-up routine.
"We're definitely ahead of where we were last year,'' Riches said, preparing for his second state league season as head coach.
"It's been good having so many returning guys and the guys have got a pretty sharp focus to go out there and improve upon their standing from last year.''
The week after Easter will be spent fine-tuning the team's tactics ahead of their first game against Mackay at Ipswich stadium next weekend.
Having a long weekend is also the last chance for Riches, his coaching assistants and players to have a short break for some months.
"This Easter period will realistically be the last time that they get until the end of the QBL season to have a break,'' Riches said.
"It's been go, go, go because we've played four trial games in about 10 days.
"It's been quite hectic basketball-wise so we're looking just to take a few days to relax and reboot and get ready for the season.''
The Ipswich Force women also open their 2019 QBL campaign against Mackay at Ipswich stadium on April 28.