The CNMI Junior Nationals are leaving for Palau this weekend to compete in the 2016 U17 Micronesian Basketball Tournament.
The Commonwealth will be represented in the regional caging (western conference) by 12 players, three officials, and one referee. Suiting up for the squad are Jester Kintaro, N-nes Siech, Ron Atalig, Dean Blake, Jerald Castillo, Aiferson Atan, Jeffrey Castro, Jethro Cruz, Gregory Sablan Jr., Troy Ngirarois, Roberto Paragados Jr., and Keoni Rios. Preston Basa is the team’s head coach and will be assisted by Omar Ajoste, while Greg Iginoef is the Junior Nationals manager. Referee Arnold Mesa completes the CNMI delegation.
The MBT U17 will take place from July 25 to 30 at the Palau National Gymnasium in Koror with the CNMI Junior Nationals competing against two teams from the host island, Guam, and Yap.
Elias Rangamar, secretary general and development officer of Marianas Islands Basketball Federation, which led the formation of the Junior Nationals, said the team has a good mixed of big and small players who can run a fast-paced game.
“This is a very young team and the coaching staff is encouraging them go for motion offense and use their speed as often as possible,” said Rangamar, who watched the team’s scrimmage against players from the MIBF’s island-wide and government leagues yesterday.
“They need as many scrimmages as they could get as the tournament nears. There’s a lot of things they need to improve on despite training for more than three months and I hope by the time they get to Palau, the team will play more cohesive basketball and be consistent on defense,” Rangamar added.
Although, Palau has two squads in the MBT, Rangamar picked Guam as the team to beat in next week’s tournament.
“We have no idea how the other participating teams play so it’s up to the coaching staff to make the adjustments once they get there and hopefully our players will also respond to the challenges that other teams will be presenting to them,” Rangamar said.
The 12 players who made the team were selected from a pool of 20 aspirants. The final 12 play for various school and youth leagues on the island. Kintaro, the tallest player on the team at 6’3”, played for the Sonics that won the U15 crown in the inaugural Diaz youth caging a few months ago. Castro and Rios are Kintaro’s teammates, while majority of the members of the squad played for the Ol’Aces, who topped U18 division of the same caging and finished in the Top 4 in the U15.
“These are the players that we are trying to develop as they may be able to play for the men’s team in the future,” Rangamar said, adding that MIBF failed to form a women’s squad due to the unavailability of female players on the island.