When he was still a member of the CNMI national men’s basketball team under former head coach Rufino Aguon, James Lee and his teammates used to run several laps inside the old Northern Marianas College Gymnasium.
Now that he’s the president of the Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation, it’s now Lee’s chance to return the favor and run aspiring CNMI men’s and women’s national players ragged. But that’s not to say running is an end-all in itself as far as basketball is concerned, as like the John Candy comedy classic Cool Runnings, not only do fast runners make good bobsleighers, they are also guaranteed to make good basketball players.
Last Saturday, June 12, 26 aspiring players trying out for both the men’s and women’s national teams traded their high cut basketball sneakers for running shoes and took part in a 3-mile run at the track oval of the Oleai Sports Complex.
“The track time trial for our open tryout is to see at what level each athlete are at currently. For both the national program as well as for the athletes themselves so that they can see what they need to improve or a benchmark for them to be better,” said Lee.
The NMIBF president couldn’t emphasize more the importance of conditioning in the revamped CNMI men’s and women’s national basketball program.
“Cardio training is very important in any sport especially with high-intensity sports like basketball where a player have to constantly be on the move, run back and forth on both offense and defense, and have the endurance to do so for four quarters or more per game and then repeat again the next day for the length of the tournament/league,” he said.
As far as the results of the 3-mile run, 19-year-old Khristian Itaas of the Sonics finished first with a time of 22:07:50, followed by Rollers’ Lucio Aldan and Joseph Sablan with times of 24:57:19 and 25:14:25, respectively.
Itaas, a 5’11” point guard studying at NMC, said he really wanted to finish first in the 3-mile run so he could show NMIBF that he’s really dead-set in earning a roster spot in the CNMI men’s national basketball team.
“I just always want to push myself over the limit to see where it takes me. I am very committed into wanting to be part of the CNMI team and hopefully through hard work and dedication, I am able to secure a spot and hopefully once I get in, I am going to push to be a starter,” he said.
Under the leadership of Lee, NMIBF designed the national program to provide the islands a steady and deep pool of players that would suit up for the Commonwealth in several competitions, not just for next year’s Micronesian Games in the Marshall Islands.
For this season, the program is broken down into five stages with the first phase to run until July 24 this year. Tryouts are being held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Phase 2 will be from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31; Phase 3 from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28,2022; Phase 4 is from March 1 to June 30; and Phase 5 is from July 25 to Aug. 5, which cover the dates of matches in the 2022 Micronesian Games.
For more information about the tryouts, send email to email@example.com or leave a message to NMIBF’s Facebook account Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation.