Having missed last season’s playoffs in heartbreaking fashion, Wagga Heat coach Colin Reed has unfinished business to take care of after inking a new deal with the club this week.
The Heat missed the postseason in July despite having one more win than eighth-placed Coffs Harbour Suns, and Reed is determined to go one better next year.
“I thought we had good side to work with last year,” he said.
“The group and the systems we put in place were solid and this year we’ll be looking to build on that.”
Reed said he was keen for all of last year’s players to throw their hat in the ring again next season, adding that he had received strong interest from other players around the region.
“We have guys keen to play from a few different places, including Young and Albury,” he said.
“There’s also some very good talent in the junior ranks here.
“Some of their bodies aren’t quite ready for men’s basketball, but the talent is there.”
Reed’s first step towards improvement has been to establish the Riverina State League Talent Program, an intensive course which aims to have the region’s best players test themselves against each other during an otherwise quiet part of the basketball calendar.
“We want to show young players what it’s like to be part of Wagga Heat program and develop them from there,” Reed said.
“It exposes some of the best players to each other during the off season and it’s great for their fitness too.”
Meanwhile, Wagga Blaze coach Peter O’Leary has also signed on for next season.
After starting from scratch with a new team full of young blood last season, O’Leary will continue to prioritise steady development over immediate success.
“My philosophy is not so much about winning the flag straight away, but to develop basketball in Wagga and to build this young team,” he said.
O’Leary is yet to establish which players will be returning next season, but said he expected many of them to be back.
“When we did our postseason interviews, they all said they enjoying their basketball and sounded keen to carry on,” he said.
“It’s just a bit tricky in terms of availability when your whole team is younger players, with uni and weekend work going on when the team has away games three or four hours out of town.”
Despite his strong focus on developing young local players, O’Leary said the team would likely sign an import to be the “face and voice” of women’s basketball in Wagga.