The CNMI men’s 3×3 basketball team will try to test if its two-month preparation is enough as it takes on eight other teams in the 10th Pacific Mini Games in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
The Commonwealth cagers will leave Saipan today at 6:05pm and are expected to land at the Bauerfield International Airport this weekend or a few days before the Dec. 11 start of the 3×3 games at the Korman Indoor Hall 2. The elimination round will run until Dec. 13 with the finals set for Dec. 14.
Once in Vanuatu, team captain Preston Basa said cohesiveness won’t be a problem for them since they have been playing for years with the Ol’Aces. Dan Barcinas, Jack Lizama, and Douglas Schmidt are the other members of the Elias Rangamar-managed squad.
“We already know our strengths and weaknesses so it’s easy for us to make adjustments. The only problem that we encountered with our training was our schedules sometimes don’t match,” Basa told Saipan Tribune in an interview yesterday.
Basa works at the Public School System, while Barcinas and Schmidt are employed in private companies, and Lizama’s job requires him to be in Guam most of the time.
“Our job schedule had been a problem but we practice consistently as a team if we are all here. We usually practice twice a day. We also do strength and conditioning, it’s just a matter of getting in shape,” the team captain added.
Basa said they have been practicing plays that they hope would work once they go up against powerhouse teams American Samoa and Papua New Guinea. However, he added that the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and host Vanuatu should not be taken lightly.
“It will be tough, but we’ll see what happens there. We understand what we need to do in order to win and we expect that most of the teams are going to go big in order to control the middle. Competitions will be interesting since 3×3 basketball is new,” said Basa.
The International Olympic Committee just included 3×3 basketball to its program this year. The Pacific Games Council then added the sport to its calendar just months before the Mini Games kicked off, making the competitions the first to have the event in both the men’s and women’s divisions.
Basa also admitted that they have difficulties scouting their opponents.
“It is hard to find videos of other teams. I tried searching YouTube for at least videos of Samoa, but I didn’t find any. Seems that all competing teams have no idea how each of us play. The 3×3 competition would be very interesting,” he said.
The team captain is hoping their outside shooting would be consistent to make it easier for Lizama to operate inside the paint.
“The more shots we take, the better chances for us to win. Most likely, teams would field a bigger lineup so we just need to make those outside shots. We only have seven seconds to get a shot. We have to make quick attempts and hopefully we could make those shots. Dan, Doug, and I must make our outside shots. That would allow Jack some space to work inside or we can set up screens for Doug to penetrate,” Basa said.
Rangamar, in a separate interview, said he hopes the team’s quickness and outside shooting would be enough to score some upsets in the tournament, which will be without Guam.
Basa said they were a bit relieved upon learning that Guam won’t be joining the 3×3 competitions.
“Well, that’s one powerhouse team down. We know Guam is a strong team since they have been winning tournaments in the region. With them out, it gives us a better chance to hopefully make it to the medal round,” Basa said.