The Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation has named the 40 players that will be moving on to Phase 2 of the NMI National Basketball Program.
In the women’s division, the 20-player pool has a mix of former national players and young blood. Lia Rangamar, Irish Pagarao, Cassandra Camacho, and Michelle Kautz, who had donned the NMI colors in the past, will have a chance to represent the Commonwealth anew after making it to the selection. Completing the pool are Sha Aina Mendoza, Sylvina Simram, Destiny Pangelinan, Angellyn Roligat, Richelle Kautz, Alliyah Fernandez, Marlene Lumabi, Jasmine Phan, Shanesse Aldan, Fiona Bucalig, Madeleine Alegre, Kina Rangamar, Azriel Fatialofa, Kaia Travilla, and Raenna Ramarui.
The men’s division pool, on the other hand, has Joseph Sablan, Kelvin Kabiriel, Gerald Flores, Eli Aughenbaugh, Steve King, Coby Santos, Greg Sablan, Jeff Castro, Leo Naraja, Shane Deleon Guerrero, Khristian Itaas, Lucio Aldan, Donovan Brennan, Matthew Richardson, Ervin Villarin, Chioni Dela Cruz, Jack Aranda, Jaymark De Guzman, Frankie Satur, and Emmanuel Feria.
The 40 players and nearly 30 others joined the tryouts for the national program, which involved training sessions three times a week for one and a half months at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium and Oleai Sports Complex track oval. They were then evaluated based on their basketball skills and knowledge before the selection panel—made up of NMIBF officials, development director Elias Rangamar, and potential national team coaches—concurred on picking the 20 players each for the men’s and women’s divisions.
The 40 players will now start Phase 2 of the program this Saturday and the second stage of training sessions will run until Oct. 31. The program initially will have five stages and will culminate with the selection of the NMI national men’s and women’s teams that will compete in the 2022 Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands. Members of the pool can also be considered for other international and regional tournaments.
“The NMIBF would like to congratulate the 40 players who are moving to Phase 2 of the NMI National Basketball Program. The NMIBF board, together with our development director and coaches, will provide them with the tools and assistance to meet the pool’s objective in the second stage of the program,” NMIBF president James Lee said.
“In return, we ask for their continued commitment to the program as there’s more work ahead of us. We are also hoping that those who missed the cut for Phase 2 will continue playing and rejoin the program once we open a new series of tryouts for future competitions. Our national program is structured not just for next year’s Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands, but also for other tournaments so we would like to have as many players as we can to develop a deep and strong pool of potential national players,” he added.
The NMIBF introduced the 40 players during a meeting last Tuesday night at the conference room of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
The pool then had a Q&A session with pro player Jericho Cruz and Olympian and FIBA Oceania development manager Annie La Fleur via Zoom, while NMSA president Jerry Tan delivered a pre-recorded video message to the selection.
“Thank you for taking the call to join the national program and for your willingness to do the work at these challenging times. Good luck and continue to work hard,” Tan said.
Cruz, who represented the CNMI in the 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau, encouraged the group to put in the extra work before and after practice sessions and keep improving their game.
“Keep that hunger to get better every day,” said Cruz, who used to play for Marianas High School before jumping into the collegiate and the Philippine Basketball Association in the Philippines.
La Fleur, who suited up for Australia in the 2000 Summer Olympics and also saw action in the WNBA from 1999 to 2003, encouraged the pool to take on the opportunity to represent the NMI in the Micro Games and other international tournaments and use the honor of being called a national player as motivation for their training sessions. (PR)