NMI Rollers Basketball Association co-founder and head coach Joe Diaz is extremely pleased with the community’s efforts in transforming basketball courts in various villages on the islands.
Diaz said he’s been hearing a lot about the Public Private Partnership initiative of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers and the campaign’s supporters for the past months and their work on the community facilities in the CNMI, specifically the outdoor basketball courts.
“Last Saturday, NMI Rollers had the opportunity take part in initiative when we worked with Reps. Leila Staffler and Richard Lizama, the Kagman residents, and some of our coach, players, and their families in painting the Kagman II basketball court,” said Diaz.
“I’ve learned basketball courts in other villages, such as Capitol Hill, As Matuis, Susupe, Chinatown, and Chalan Kanoa, have undergone significant improvements, too and this is great news to us, Rollers, and other basketball clubs in the CNMI, particularly our youth,” the long-time coach added.
Diaz said that since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it was pretty challenging for players and coaches too look for venues for practices and games, especially at the onset of the crisis when restrictions on gathering, like sports events, were very stringent. Some of them used to train at home before utilizing the open Koblerville Gymnasium while still following safety protocols. However, travelling to the facility at the southern end of the island is still tough for other Rollers players.
“But with the improvement of the courts in our villages, access to these facilities will be easier. For Rollers, I can only go to Kagman once a week, so I am happy that one of our senior players—Zachary Babauta—has taken on the responsibility to handle our youth players’ practices and they will have the opportunity to train at the improved Kagman II facility,” Diaz said.
Babauta, K2 Ballers coach Tom Pangelinan, Rollers referee director Fred Litulumar, and Rollers alumni and now Socho Basketball Club (As Matuis) president Matt Iguel helped in the repair and painting work at the Kagman II court and were also assisted by Kagman residents. The transformation will continue this weekend, according to Diaz.
“We would like to thank Rep. Lizama and Staffler for taking on this project and other lawmakers who have adopted and would be adopting basketball courts in the entire CNMI. This is a very inspiring work, especially for our youth, our basketball players and coaches, and the entire community who utilize these facilities for different activities,” Diaz said.
The Rollers head coach added that the project is more than just about basketball—it’s about teaching the youth the value of getting involved in activities that benefit the entire community.
“This also helps our players learn the value of ownership—taking care of the facility they are using and having pride in improving it. If they see people vandalizing the facility, expect our players or Kagman residents to step in because they put in the hard work to make the court good and they don’t want other people damaging it,” Diaz said.
Babauta echoed Diaz’s thoughts and thanked all the groups that partnered with Reps. Lizama and Stafller in last Saturday’s project.
“I liked to give a big thank you to all the people who helped coordinate and volunteer their time, especially the kids who wanted to be a part of something great for our community. This gave them the opportunity to do so,” Babauta said.