For the first time, a girls and boys U15 National Team will represent the NMI in Guam for the FIBA U15 Oceania Championships next week, with the finalized roster announced last Tuesday in a sendoff ceremony at the conference room of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
The NMI Girls U15 National Team players include Chealzka Navarro, Aaleyah Fatialofa, Andrei Kaithlynn Chavez, Mia Abuan, Tamia Hix, Aiyana Fatialofa, Maria Enriquez, Valerie Estella, Mya Pangelinan, Asa Backe, Azriel Fatialofa, and Angelina George. The officials with them are Marlene Lumabi, head coach; Madeleine Alegre, assistant coach; and Richelle Kautz, team manager.
The NMI Boys U15 National Team players are Michael Mercado Jr., Jay Pineda, Christian Lucero, Lance Lerio, Leonard Regalado, Jezpher Navarro, Austin Diaz, Slymark Defang, Onick Ragbonshe, Ethan Sablan, Kern Han, and Mjay Capalad, with Jake Maratita as head coach, Preston Basa as coach, Jose Tudela as assistant coach, and Mike Mercado as team manager.
The NMI has not competed in the FIBA Oceania Championship since 2009 and in this championship from Monday, Nov. 21, to Saturday, Nov. 26, the other U15 teams competing against the NMI are host Guam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Samoa.
The NMI boys team is in Pool B and will first face off with PNG on Tuesday, Nov. 22, followed by FSM the next day, Wednesday, Nov. 23.
The NMI girls team is in Pool B as well and will duke it out with the girls of PNG on Monday, Nov. 21, with a battle against Guam on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The quarterfinals are set for Thursday, Nov. 24, the semifinals are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 25, and the finals are set for Saturday, Nov. 26.
Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee told the players, “When you go out there, always keep your heads up high as you are representing the CNMI. Do your best in every game. Most of you will be competing in a high-level tournament for the first time, so observe, understand, and learn from every game you have and every team you will face.”
He then thanked the parents “who have entrusted their children to us and supported their participation in our NMIBF Junior National Program.”
The 26-year-old Lumabi said, “this is a great opportunity. This is an opportunity I never got when I was your age, to go out and play and see Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, PNG… That opportunity is presented to you guys. I hope you guys maximize that because we never got that chance. You guys do. So, take advantage of that and use it… it’s [going to be] a really tiring week… they’re real one-hour basketball games… so you need to have that mind set [that] we’re not there to vacation, we’re there to play– to take care of business.”
The players representing the CNMI are products of the NMIBF’s Junior National Basketball Program which seeks to create a sustainable youth development program on the island that kicked off this year.