Giannis vs Kyrie in NMI Hoopfest


NBA superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, and Kyrie Irving will cross paths on Saipan as they play in the NMI Hoopfest at the Marianas High School Gymnasium. (AP)

The islands’ basketball fans will be treated to a show, as Saipan Tribune is set to bring in NBA superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyrie Irving to play in the NMI Hoopfest at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.

The Milwaukee Bucks standout will team up with four local players and will be coached by NMI Rollers Basketball Club’s Joe Diaz.

The veteran coach has already selected the four players that will make up his starting five along with Antetokounmpo. Diaz will utilize former MHS players Shane Deleon Guerrero and Prince Factor as his point guard and small forward, respectively, Mt. Carmel School’s Chioni Dela Cruz will be his shooting guard, and Kagman High School alumni Ben Lisua will be the squad’s power forward.

“Giannis will be our center, but we all know he can play three positions—he can play small forward, can shoot at No. 2, and also post up. We are excited to have him on the team,” Diaz said.

“As for the four local players, I chose them for our the starting unit because they have the height and can play both on offense and defense. I know what they are capable of doing on the court,” said Diaz.

When asked what will be the name of his team, the respected coach said, “Marianas Faith.”

“Because with all these challenges we are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we should have faith, love, and respect with each other,” said Diaz, adding that he will hold a series of tryouts for the remaining slots on the team.

“When it’s OK and safe to go out, we will have tryouts at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium,” he said.

Marianas Faith will be battling the Irving-led 670 Dream Team.

Former CNMI Men’s National Team member James Lee has been tasked to select Irving’s teammates with the 670 Dream Team.

Lee has also named his starting five with John Maratita, Elias Rangamar, Mark Wallace, and Peter Camacho joining forces with Irving.

With Lee’s selection, the NMI Hoopfest will feature the young guns versus the tried and tested veterans.

“These four guys might not be the fastest or biggest even at their prime, but their basketball IQ, in my opinion, are one of the highest and they can move the ball quick as well as shoot at any spot on offense. And as for defense, they’ll know how to break you apart right from the start,” Lee said.

He can’t wait to see the starters team up with Irving.

“Irving is an all-around player. He has the best ball handling skills at the moment, quick, can shoot at any location, good at setting up plays for his teammates, and if he needs to carry the team, he can. And he’s also good on defense,” Lee said.

Lee won’t be calling the shots for the 670 Dream Team and instead will let his starters pick their teammates and strategize for the game.

“Again those guys’ basketball IQ is so high that they’ll just look at each other and know what to do without saying a word,” said Lee, who wished he could have the late Ric Alegre join the team.

Meanwhile, Saipan Tribune is still working on the date for the biggest basketball showdown in the CNMI, but at this early, the publication would like to let the public know that spectators would not be paying any fees to watch the game at the MHS Gym.

Saipan Tribune would also like to remind basketball fans in the CNMI that today is April Fools’ Day.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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