The Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation has finalized its rosters for the 2022 FIBA Micronesian Cup set to begin next week in Guam.
Making it to the CNMI Men’s National Basketball Team are Donovan Brennan, Eli Aughenbaugh, Chioni Dela Cruz, Greg Sablan, Leo Naraja, Shane Deleon Guerrero, Lucio Aldan, Frankie Satur, Jeff Castro, Sir Lashu Dela Cruz, and captain Coby Santos
The CNMI Women’s National Basketball Team, meanwhile, is made up of Marlene Lumabi, Michelle and Richelle Kautz, Kaia Travilla, Azriel Fatialofa, Fiona Bucalig, Angellyn Roligat, Destiny Pangilinan, Gabrielle Race, E’Anna and Ky’Sonne Won, and captain Madeleine Alegre.
NMIBF president James Lee said Santos and Alegre were named skippers of each team because both had previous Micronesian Games experience.
He added that the Won sisters are late additions to the team and recently came back from off-island. E’Ann plays college basketball, while Ky’Sonne suits up for her high school team.
The men’s head coach is Joseph “Joe” Diaz and he’s being assisted by Keith Nabors.
For the women, Catherine Attao-Toves serves as head head coach with David Apatang and Vinalyn Simram her coaching lieutenants.
Ethan Kwon is the team manager of both the men’s and women’s national teams.
Lee said he’s confident that the men’s and women’s nationals will make their home islands proud in the four-day tournament set to start on June 8.
“I know we’ll be a competitive team at the Micro Cup. As for winning and medaling, it will all come down to trusting each other and how much they want it. They may lack the experience, however, we have a very young talented roster and a group of passionate athletes and coaches that we are sending and so I have all the confidence in them that they will represent the NMI well.”
Diaz said one thing’s for sure is that the men’s nationals won’t back down against anyone.
“All I can say is we have a bunch of players that have been grinding off and on the court. So all I can say is we’re going to be competitive.”
Asked what the team’s goal is in the FIBA Micro Cup, the G-Rollers founder said it’s to be No. 1.
“We are all going out to get that gold medal and represent our Commonwealth. Our strength is our team. We play together as one Team CNMI,” he said.
Aside from defense, Diaz said the men’s nationals’ strength is their speed and shooting.
“I just don’t like to talk but I like to show that for one year we have been working on this. I want to show action on what we learned from the Friendlies UOG Basketball Tournament,” he said.
Like Diaz, Attao-Toves said the women’s nationals’ goal is to win the gold medal.
“Winning the gold is the overall goal! My expectation for our team is to truly represent the NMI to the very best of our ability—carrying the #MarianasStrong mentality. We are prepared to give it our all and will go all in!”
She said her squad is very much a “team” in all aspects of the word.
“We have worked on many different strategies so we would be ready for whatever style we are faced with. Our team is very diverse in age and experience. With this diversity, I am grateful that these ladies trust our (coach Dave Apatang Jr. and myself) guidance and direction,” said Attao-Toves.
Gold medal or not, the NMBF said it’s just happy that CNMI Basketball is back on the map and moving forward with its national team program as it prepares to be relevant again in the region.
“One thing for sure though is that after this FIBA Micro Cup, we’ll have a pool of veterans to build on the national program in preparation for the following year’s competitions (Micronesian Games and hopefully the Pacific Games),” said Lee.
Aside from host Guam and the CNMI, the other two teams seeing action in the Inaugural FIBA Micronesian Cup are Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Kiribati and the Marshall Islands were supposed to go but later withdrew. Nauru was the other team invited to take part in the FIBA Micronesian Cup.
Originally, the 2022 Micronesian Games set for the Marshall Islands was to serve as the qualifier, but since it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to later in 2023, FIBA Oceania had to organize an alternative qualifier hence the FIBA Micronesian Cup.
With just four teams in the mix, FIBA Micronesian Cup has adopted a three round-robin format followed by single round finals to determine the champion team and medalists.