Men’s hoops pool up for more work ahead

Posted on Apr 06 2022

The NMI’s Coby Santos challenges a shot from a University of Guam player during their friendly game last Saturday in the NMI Friendship Classic at the University of Guam Calvo Field House. (TRITON ATHLETICS)

After playing in the NMI Friendship Classic at the University of Guam Calvo Field House, NMI Senior National Program players now more than ever acknowledged what needs to be done to be battle ready when they return to Guam in June.

The men’s pool dropped its three friendly games, bowing to MicroFriends last Thursday, 72-86; to the KFC Bombers last Friday, 52-114; and to the UOG Tritons last Saturday, 57-64. The lack of playing experience against teams outside the NMI was evident in the three matches, especially versus the much taller and sturdier Bombers.

“The losses may have left a scar on our players, but they also left them a lot of lessons that they will take with them as we return to practice to get ready for our next competition, which is the FIBA Micronesian Cup,” NMI Men’s National Team head coach Joe Diaz said.

“Lesson No. 1 is to execute plays not just at the start of the game, but in the majority of the match and make adjustments as the situations call for it,” the coach said

Diaz added that after each match, he and Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee talked to the players and the latter were very receptive on the officials’ observations and recognized what must be done to correct the lapses or make improvements on certain areas of their team and individual games.

The NMI’s Leo Naraja, right, dribbles and keeps the ball away from a KFC Bombers defender during their friendly game last Friday in the NMI Friendship Classic at the University of Guam Calvo Field House. (TRITON ATHLETICS)

“They are humbled by the experience and thankful that this happened when there’s still time to bounce back and work harder and together. Now, you could see more commitment from them, more focused to the program,” the veteran coach said.

Diaz said the men’s pool players acknowledged that more communication is needed on the floor along with extra effort on defense and conditioning. On offense, Diaz took note of Coby Santos’ leadership and consistency and hopes the team captain will also inspire his teammates to have confidence in their game. Santos scored in twin digits in all three games, firing 26 markers against MicroFriends, 11 points versus the Bombers, and 17 points facing UOG.

“Now that they got the jitters (from playing together for the first time in an organized tournament) out and saw where the team is at as far as the level of competitiveness is concerned, it’s time to step it up a notch higher and put their skills togethers. Continue the journey and work for better results,” Diaz said.

Players in the men’s pool will be vying for slots on the NMI National Team that will return to Guam in June to compete in FIBA Micronesian Cup. The event, a qualifier for the 2023 Pacific Games, will run from June 8 to 11 with the NMI men’s and women’s national squads facing Guam, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. (PR)

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