No wildcard entry for CNMI in Pacific Games


Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee takes a selfie while posing with the CNMI men’s and women’s national teams during the awards ceremony of last June’s 2022 FIBA Micronesian Cup in Guam.(CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Despite its best efforts, the CNMI didn’t get a wildcard entry to the basketball competition of the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands this November.

Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee said last June’s FIBA Micronesian Cup in Guam was a qualifier for the Pacific Games and only the first place team gets an automatic slot.

He admitted though that while the CNMI fell short of the goal as the men’s and women’s national teams finished third and second, respectively, in the tournament, he was hoping the islands’ basketball teams would somehow secure wildcard entries to the quadrennial event.

“There is a wildcard slot which comes down to the most active federation plus their performance in the game. Though our federation has been very active within the past year, unfortunately our game performance is not quite there yet.”

Lee said not qualifying for the Pacific Games could actually be a blessing in disguise, as this would motivate their men’s and women’s teams to improve more in order to perform better in future regional competitions. 

“Truth is, based on how we performed at the Micro Cup, we wouldn’t be competitive at this coming Pacific Games. We still have some work to do but I believe we’re on the right track. Establishing a national program and modernizing our ‘culture’ with training as an athlete that wants to represent our home is the first step.”

The Solomon Islands recently confirmed the eight-team lineup for the basketball competition for both men and women of the Honiara Pacific Games.

The men’s teams that qualified for the Pacific Games are Guam, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.

Teams from Guam, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia, meanwhile, will duke it out in the women’s tournament. 

The Pacific Games serves as a qualifying event for the Asian Cup and in turn for the FIBA World Cup. The basketball competition of the Pacific Games is scheduled to begin on Nov. 19.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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