Belize is hosting an international basketball tournament this weekend. It's the second round of the FIBA World Cup Americas tournament. In the last tournament in July of last year, Belize faced its regional competitors, and this time, we are facing teams from the Caribbean - namely the Bahamas, Cuba and Antigua.
Belize is fighting for one of four available spots to advance to the final rounds of the FIBA World Cup Americas which will begin in November, 2019. The stakes are high because the FIBA Americas bracket features the hemisphere's basketball powerhouses such as the USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil.
So, through happenstance more than good play, this is the closest Belize has been to the World Cup Americas final round. So there's a lot riding on this tournament and the job of putting a wining team together falls to head coach Milton Palacio. We spoke to him at Civic this morning as he worked out the team which is still taking shape:...
"Our hope is to advance and we are going in here very optimistic. We are going to play ball and everybody is talking about Cuba, but I think Bahamas is going to be one of the toughest opponents this weekend."
"If we come in 1st or 2nd, what do we stand to gain?"
"We go to Canada, USA, Mexico and Argentina and those teams, so now it gets tougher from here. So for us its just trying to qualify and keep the standard high and get ready to play those guys."
"Now you always put in a tough position where you literally have to throw aa team together in a week or two weeks. I suspect this time it's a week."
"This time we went with a different team, more low guard, a little more shooters, because now what the NBA is going to is the players are doing a lot of 3-point shooting and space on the floor and small ball. So we kind a got more guys like that. Its tough to put a team together so fast, but it's everywhere around the world, everybody is playing competition level right now. the 22nd and 24th is that window. So other teams are putting their teams together same amount of time, we are not going to have too many imports. We are playing with our home grown guys and I think we are going to be fine. I never worry about who is not here. I only worry about who is here."
"I thought that the last time around with Costa Rica and El Salvador - guys were a little tight and they guys were trying to make shots and everybody wanted to play in front of family and friends at home. So this time its going to be a little more laid back, a little more not so uptight, but they are ready to play this weekend."
"Explain to me what should be the expectation of fans, because last time you all were within a hair's breathe of claiming silver and we ended up on a phenomenally bad shooting second half and we ended up with nada."
"For me I don't like to put expectations on these guys. If I would I would say yeah we are going out there and win gold and qualify, but I just know. It's tough when you shoot 2 for 23`from 3 and 24 turnovers. That's tough to win in any part of the world. I can care less where you are. I think its not going to be a bad shooting again. I think these guys understand and I think that's the biggest thing, not so much pressure on these guys, to come out here and play loose, play free and at the end of the day its basketball, regardless of where you look at it. The ball won't change, the height of the basket won't change and these guys gotta know that. Its basketball but you gotta play together and you gotta play hard."
Palacio is currently on loan from the Brooklyn Nets organization where he works on the coaching staff of their G-League affiliate. He expects to have the roster finalized by tonight.
Notably, big man Charles Garcia is unable to make the tournament as he is currently making a playoff push for his team in Taiwan.