Lee sad Kiribati, Marshall Islands couldn’t go


Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee, right, poses with Guam Basketball Confederation president EJ Calvo, second from left, and secretary general Frank Cruz, second from right, during the NMI Friendship Classic at the University of Guam Calvo Field House this past weekend. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Even as the CNMI national men’s and women’s basketball pool are in the thick of preparations for the Inaugural FIBA Micronesian Cup in Guam this coming June, Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee said it’s unfortunate that the field has whittled down to four instead of the original seven.

This comes following Kiribati and the Marshall Islands notifying FIBA Oceania executive director Amanda Jenkins that they won’t be able to send their respective delegations to the competition, which will serve as a qualifier for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.

“It’s sad and unfortunate that our brothers and sisters from the island of Kiribati and Marshall Islands won’t be able to join us in the upcoming FIBA Micronesian Cup held in Guam in June due travel restrictions because of COVID-19. And even though our athletes are there to compete, the spirit of sports is not just competition and winning,” said Lee.

The NMIBF official said the Inaugural FIBA Micronesian Cup would’ve been a great opportunity to network with other basketball-loving people from around the region.

“A big part of it is to create great memories and continue to build that long lasting friendship through basketball especially with our neighboring islands within Micronesia. I hope that COVID-19will subside by next year and everyone will be able to see each other again at the Micronesian Games held at Marshall Islands,” he added.

Far from a finished product as shown by the women’s pool’s 1-2 win-loss record and the men’s pool’s 0-3 standing in this past weekend’s NMI Friendship Classic hosted by University of Guam Athletics at the UOG Calvo Field House, Lee said the NMIBF leadership is going all out in making sure that the CNMI national basketball program will develop a competitive team moving forward.

“As far as chances goes, I have full confidence on our national head coaches on leading our athletes to be a competitive team out there and I also have full trust in our athletes, both men and women, that they will represent NMI the best they can.”

With the withdrawal of Kiribati and the Marshall Islands from the meet, the four remaining teams entered in the Inaugural FIBA Micronesian Cup host Guam, the CNMI, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. 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, Jenkins said the FIBA Micronesian Cup will adopt a three round-robin format followed by single round finals to determine our champion team and medalists.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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