Just about every household across the country has a favorite basketball player. While you may still be arguing whether its’ Kobe Bryant or Lebron James, for us in the Jewel, at least for the weekend, the king is the Belize National Basketball Team. The FIBA America 2021 COCABA Championship qualifier will be held in Belize from Friday July twentieth to Sunday twenty-second. This continental cup event ends in 2021 and Belize is entering round one of that process. Belize, Costa Rica and El Salvador will be going up against each other to advance to the next round. It’s the first time in 20 years a major tournament is being held in Belize.
Julian Murillo, Secretary General, Belize Basketball Federation: “This is our first maiden voyage in quest of that FIBA Continental Cup for the Americas. The third major international tournament that Fiba holds is quite new which is called the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, the next Olympics as we all know is due to be played in Tokyo in 2020 and what will happen a few months before that is that FIBA will be holding an Olympic qualifying tournament. Performances of teams in the World Cup rounds as well as in this FIBA Continental Americas Cup will determine who gets to play in that Olympic qualifying tournament so for us depending on how we play and how far we advance in the FIBA Americup we may get a chance to play in that Olympic qualifying tournament.”
Milton Palacio, Head Coach: “First and foremost they should come out just to enjoy. I think we’ve never had anything like this for twenty years so why wouldn’t you come out to experience something special that is the first and foremost. Also to come out and experience the talent of these twelve guys because it’s different talents that they all have and now they’re coming together as one and also it’s not about me personally to be over confident or cocky or anything because I think without confidence you can’t be good. We’re confident of course because we’re putting the work in every day and getting our shots up. “
Richard Troyer, Captain: “As our mindset I think coach has beaten into us ‘everybody do your job’ and so I think we’ve been picking up on that and guys have been learning what their job is and we’re doing our best to do our job and if everybody does their job we’ll be fine and as far as the home court advantage and stuff like that I’ve been excited for months I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to play in front of Belizean fans- it’s been a long time I think.”
Three of the six Central American countries could not participate in the FIBA America 2021 COCABA tournament. Nicaragua is unable to play because of civil unrest and due to the Fuego Volcano eruption, Guatemala declined to enter and Honduras had financial issues preventing them from fielding a team. However, the winner of the tournament will advance to play in the Caribbean region where Antigua and Guyana are making strides and in South America, Paraguay is emerging as a major threat for the Central American champions. At today’s press conference, BBF Secretary General Julian Murillo made a last-minute sales pitch to basketball fans.
Julian Murillo, Secretary General, Belize Basketball Federation: “We have not had anything like this in twenty years. Not just because we feel that this is a very strong team but simply because I think for Belizeans it will be a treat. We have a brand new facility, we have a great team, a great competition tournament in front of us. We spent the last three weeks preparing for it and we hope that Belizeans and their families will be able to really enjoy something that will be memorable for years to come. Tickets are currently on sale at the Civic Center Box Office, so are t-shirts supporting Belize. Tickets go to the price of $60 for courtside, $40 for VIP and $20 for general admission. The Saturday game is between Costa Rica and El Salvador. We are also expecting that Belizens will come out and enjoy good basketball between those two teams as well. So Friday night Belize plays El Salvador, Saturday night Costa Rica goes up against El Salvador and on Sunday night Belize plays Costa Rica.”
You have heard the BBF officials say nothing like this has happened in 20 years. For those of you too young to remember, the National Team has a formidable leader in Coach Milton Palacio. When he still played in the NBA, he was also team captain in 1998 and led the nation to win gold at the CARICOM Championship which was held at the first Civic Center. History lesson aside, the team hopes for your support as they hope to make history at the three international games this weekend at the newly constructed Belize Civic Center.