Young basketball star aiming high
FOR junior basketball star Jason Ralph next year's QBL season can't arrive soon enough.
With former NBA player Shane Heal signing on as Ipswich Force coach, the Queensland and Australian junior representative will have the best mentor available on his front doorstep.
The 16-year-old point guard hopes the rare opportunity will deliver him the edge he needs to achieve his dreams of a professional basketball career.
"I've known Shane for a few years because his daughter is my age and we both play rep basketball," he said.
"He has told me he wants to do individuals with me next year.
"He's been in the NBA and played and won championships in the NBL as well as being an MVP so he's the best possible person to learn from."
The benefit of Heal's personal tutelage can't be underestimated.
Ralph has modelled his game on the former San Antonio Spurs guard right down to an incredible range on his lethal jump shot.
The Ipswich Grammar student played for the senior Force team this year but unfortunately saw limited court time.
He said it was a little frustrating but it just gave him more motivation to compete at the highest level.
"Most games I suited up and was at the end of the bench waiting my turn," he said.
"I was the youngest in the team by far but when I went on I felt I could compete with the strong bodies."
As a member of the Ipswich Force under 18 team, Ralph is benefiting from coach, and phycologist, Kirron Byrne's professional direction.
"Kirron says I can't just aim for the NBL I have to aim to be the best point guard or the best player in the NBA," he said.
"I can't just aim to be the best under-18 player in Queensland."
With attitude a key component to the psyche of any successful athlete, the humble 16-year-old is working on setting his goals high and it appears to be working.
"If you don't aim for the highest level you're definitely never going to get there," he said.
"My goal right now is to go over to college and see where it takes me from there.
"I really want to go to St Mary's because there's heaps of Aussies there so it would be like home."
The five-foot-eleven guard may still have plenty of developing to go but has already received interest from overseas scouts.
For the moment though, the sweet shooting guard said he is focused on improving his game and hopefully winning selection on the Australian under 17 team for next year's World Championships in Lithuania.
"I missed out on the team for the recent series against New Zealand but I've improved my shooting since then," he said.
"I'm still a chance to make the Worlds team so that is my goal at the moment.
Ralph will use this season's fast approaching QBL junior season and the Queensland representative program to work on his game.
With four other junior QBL title winning players lining up next to him this season, Ralph hopes they will challenge for this season's ultimate prize.
"I think the Brisbane (Capitals) will be our toughest opponents, they have about four or five state players," he said.
"With the team we have we're definitely aiming to win the title this year."