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Puerto Rico: Not everything shines in the island's basketball teams

The men and female basketball teams live two very different moments .

Michelle González and Juan José Barea

Puerto Rican basketball players live opposite worlds in their competitions. Photos: TW-MichGonzalez91, IG-jjbarea11

LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano Moreno

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Leer en español: Puerto Rico con unas de cal y otras de arena en el baloncesto internacional

Puerto Rico plays at home in the FIBA Americas Cup for Women that will be played until next Saturday, June 19 at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan , a tournament in which under the command of coach Gerardo Bautista, they try to respond to the favoritism that they have received granted to get on the podium.

After reaching their first qualification for the Olympic Games in the women's division and eliminating Brazil, the Puerto Ricans have consolidated a very positive three-year process largely due to the growth of players such as strong forward Jazmon Gwathmey and the experience of the former WNBA Jennifer O'Neill .

The powerful team has the key call to success with a mixture of experience and youth with Pamela Rosado (the most experienced of all), Tayra Meléndez, Alison Gibson, Jada Stinson, Isalys Quiñones, Sabrina Lozada, India Pagán, Jacqueline Benítez and Michelle González .

For the Venezuelan journalist specialized in basketball, Reiner Izturriaga, this selection is for great things . “There is talent and although they are behind the United States and Canada when it comes to America, their moment is better than that of Brazil or Cuba and their podium in the AmeriCup is a first warning of what they are capable of achieving, even more because they are at home. I think they are strong candidates for the bronze medal ”.

- FIBA Women's AmeriCup (@americupw) June 10, 2021

Talent and experience

O ”Neill is a skilled pivot who in 2015 became the first Puerto Rican player to play in the WNBA , being signed, at that time, by the Minnesota Lynx. Today, at the age of 31, she already has a tour of European basketball in the leagues of Israel, Poland (she currently plays with Artego Bydgoszcz) and Russia .

But without a doubt the star of the team today is Gwathmey . Her versatility to perform in positions 2, 3 and 4, and her athleticism, give her game a rare extra in players born in this part of the world. Born in Virginia (USA) and the daughter of American parents, she is the team's leading scorer.

She came to the WNBA in 2016, just a year after O ”Neill, and went through the San Antonio Stars and the Indiana Fever , with not so striking numbers of points and assists, but very respectable considering that she was not a starter. After a brief stint in Australia, Jazmon ended up at Gernika in Spain, where she currently plays.

The Fiba America will have, in addition to the local ones, the participation of Venezuela, Argentina, the United States and the Dominican Republic in group B. and Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador and the Virgin Islands in group B (in which seems like a lot with fewer favorites a priori).

The quarterfinal phase of the FIBA AmeriCup Women will be played on June 17, the semifinals on June 18, while the Grand Final of the continental event is scheduled for Saturday, June 19 . The top four finishers will advance to the 2022 Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifiers.

Diametrically opposite story

The path of Puerto Rico in men does not look as auspicious as in women. In the first instance because of the high level of the rivals in the Olympic playoffs and, secondly, because in the near time they has experienced an involution in their game, becoming worse with the losses of Juan José Barea, the NBA Shabazz Napier and Maurice Harkless and, most recently, Tyler Davis .

Also, and voluntarily, they stepped aside due to alleged disagreements with Casiano's way of working, names such as Ángel Rodríguez, Alex Franklin, Ramón Clemente, Tremont Waters and Javier Mojica. All of them will miss the tournament to be played in Serbia from June 29 to July 5 .

In this regard, we also consulted Izturriaga. “ Puerto Rico has always been at the top of the continent fighting its qualification for the Olympics and playing many of them. But the current situation does not invite us to be very optimistic for the immediate future. Their last great result was in the 2013 World Cup in Caracas. Not even the arrival of former player Carlos Arroyo as general manager worked for these players to improve”.

In the shortlist appear the two most prominent names -of those available- such as David Huertas and Gary Browne , as well as the experience of the brothers Gian and Gilberto Clavell, Isaiah Piñeiro, Emmanuel Andújar, Devon Collier, Jorge Bryan Díaz, Iván Gandía, Christopher Ortiz, Isaac Sosa, Timajh Parker-Rivera, José Rodríguez, and newcomers George Conditt, Jhivvan Jackson, Andre Curbelo, Haanif Cheatham, Alfonso Plummer and Phillip Wheeler.

- Jorge Figueroa Loza (@jorgefloza) July 30, 2019

The top stars

David Huertas, an efficient 34-year-old guard , is one of the team leaders. He is a consistent player in points and assistance, who has been successful in the Mexican League and whose only participation in Europe was very prominent, leaving 23 points per game in the 2016-17 campaign with Hapoel Haifa of Israel.

Huertas' main teammate in the offensive aspect is the manager Gary Browne , who, at 28, has found his place in the world in the powerful Italian league with Dolomiti Energía Trentino where he averages 13.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game . Fast, with game vision and respectable perimeter shooting.

The journey will begin with friendly matches against Senegal and Serbia and then against the Philippines and Croatia . The Puerto Rican team will meet in the tournament against Italy and Senegal and, if they get a victory, they would play against one of the two best of the group formed by the Dominican Republic, New Zealand and the host, Serbia.

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