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"Our Quest is to make Basketball a first choice for our athletes": Samoa coach

BENGALURU (FIBA U18 Women's Asian Championship 2018) – The West Pacific island nation of Samoa made its maiden appearance in the Asian circuit, at this Championship. 

With a population of under 200,000, and possessing only limited resources, Samoans have historically chosen rugby as the priority one sport. Now, the Polynesian country that is nestled halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii is eyeing basketball.

"It is a great honour and privilege to be a part of this FIBA Asia Championship. This is a very important step in our quest to make Samoan Basketball a first choice for our many great young athletes," Samoa's U18 Women's Head Coach June Tahata told FIBA.basketball.

"Funding is always an issue that many of us face. There are also facilities and logistic issues, combined with the fact that our Samoan people are spread all over the world. This makes it hard when it comes to things like talent identification," explains Tahata.

But despite these unique limitations, Samoa's exposure at these Championships should do them a world of good. Traditionally, Samoa's competition is restricted to other equally small Western Pacific island nations. Or else, on the complete other end of the spectrum, they are up against the mighty Australia or New Zealand during Oceania zone events.

Now, thanks to FIBA's revamped competition structure (that has introduced Oceania teams into the Asian continental championship), geographically remote countries like Guam and Samoa finally have the chance to be exposed to new opponents, albeit spread across the vastness of the Asian continent.

"It [FIBA's new competition structure] allows us to experience different cultures and gives us an opportunity to see how other national teams operate. We get to encounter the varied styles of play and ask questions of others so that we can learn and better ourselves as a team and individually," says Tahata.

Samoa endured a tough 50-78 loss to Hong Kong on the opening day. It next faces Kazakhstan at 1:30 pm on 29th Oct, followed by the final group game against Iran. 

How far Samoa will go in this competition remains to be seen. But in the larger scheme of things, Samoa has already come a long way.