The Guam men’s national basketball team earned the right to defend their gold medal for the second straight time at the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.
Guam’s two senior basketball teams were crowned champions at the 2022 FIBA Micronesia Cup, which ended on Saturday at the University of Guam Calvo Field House.
“We had to take care of business and get the gold so we could stamp our ticket to the Pacific Games, where our men will go for three straight gold medals and our women will certainly be looking for a medal as well,” said the male athlete. coach EJ Calvo, who is also president of the Guam Basketball Confederation. “It was a great experience for our young players to compete on home soil, so I’m very, very happy.”
In the gold medal matches, the Guam men beat Palau 93-45 and the women beat the Northern Mariana Islands 70-37.
Calvo said the current team, even without roster players Daren Hechanova and Kyle Husslein, could definitely compete with any team in the region and move up the FIBA Asia ranks (Guam ranks No. 89 in the world). In November 2023, at least two more players – Tai Wesley and Johnathan Galloway – are expected to join the team and could be the only Guam players to also make the 2015 and 2019 gold medal squads. JP Cruz and Willie Stinnett were also on those teams but did not play with the Guam team this year.
Michael Sakazaki and Joe Blas also won gold medals with the Guam team in 2015. Blas did not play in 2019 and Sakazaki played for Guam’s gold medal-winning 3X3 basketball team with Ben Borja, Seve Susuico and AJ Carlos.
Blas is now the senior member of Team Guam, a shooting guard with the size and movement of a power forward, the speed of a smaller guard with a stifling defense and deft touch from long range. Calvo now turns to him to lead the team.
“I think we’ve learned a lot about the essentials now that we’re heading into the Pacific Games,” Blas said. “I’m excited. I know these young boys are excited. They’re excited, they have a lot of energy. And that’s good because we need some new blood in the program.
Blas, one of the most prolific scorers in Guam basketball history, said he never envisioned himself as a team leader.
“It’s about holding people accountable, making sure these guys do what they’re supposed to do, and showing them how we play Guam basketball. On a male level,” he said. “But as you get older, you know. Always the same role. Just more leadership.
The Guam women’s team also has a new look and will look younger in 2023. The women put in one of their best performances of 2019 under coach Paul Pineda, starting with a blowout against Papua- New Guinea. They lost in the bronze medal game to Samoa, 87-85.
New coaches Arleen Mad and assistant Cyril Concepcion will follow the Micro Cup gold medal, with a younger and faster squad next year. Players such as Mia San Nicolas and captain Derin Stinnett have the most international experience in the team and if the current roster holds, players such as Kara Duenas, Elysia Perez and Chloe Miranda will return for the team. from Guam.
In the Micro Cup, the Guam women averaged 94.5 points over four games, while allowing an average of 33 points.
Mia San Nicolas, who was the second-best scorer and rebounder at the 2019 Games, led the Guam team this year in both categories averaging 17.5 points per game and also led in rebounds with 9.3 per game. match.