While the Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation is happy the CNMI men’s national pool won the championship of the recently held Inaugural SCLC Basketball League, it knows the team has bigger fish to fry.
“I’m happy that they won. However, as I had mentioned to the national program athletes prior to joining the Lion’s Club league, winning the games or championship at our local leagues should never be the main goal,” said NMIBF president James Lee.
The 2021 NMSA Administrator of the Year said Team Marianas’ focus all along is the FIBA Micronesian Cup set next month in Guam.
“The ultimate goal is to win out there and for this year, it would be the Micro Cup because at the end, we are not running a club, we are the basketball federation and they are training to represent the NMI,” Lee added.
He also extended his gratitude to the Saipan Centennial Lion’s Club for hosting the recent basketball league.
“On behalf of NMIBF, I want to thank the Lion’s Club for allowing the national program athletes to participate in their league. It was very helpful for our athletes to work on what they have been practicing on for the past year—both skills wise and team plays. It also allowed the national head coach to assess what else they need to improve on and also on each players’ prior to the final selection of the national team roster.”
And on the topic of the Micronesian Cup roster, the NMIBF president said they’ve already finalized the lineups of the men’s team will see action in the qualifier for next year’s Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.
Lee, however, said they will announce the men’s team’s final 12-person lineup next week, as they have yet to finalize the lineup for the women’s team.
Men’s national coach Joe Diaz, meanwhile, disclosed that it was really hard to whittle down what was once a 20-player pool to the final 12 going to the neighboring U.S. territory next month.
“So we had a total of 20 that made the first round cut and the second round cut I had a 15-man pool then this third cut we selected 12 to go out and represent our NMI National Team,” the longtime NMI Rollers head coach said.
Diaz said at the end of the day, the final 12 was selected not only on their skills on the court, but also their attendance.
“So, I based myself primarily on attendance. We have five days a week of national team practice…”
Aside from host Guam and the CNMI, the other two teams seeing action in the Inaugural FIBA Micronesian Cup are Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Kiribati and the Marshall Islands were supposed to go but later withdrew. 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, FIBA Micronesian Cup has adopted a three round-robin format followed by single round finals to determine the champion team and medalists.