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Balkman, Puerto Rico not ready to quit
SEVILLA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Puerto Rico have every reason to feel down right now as they've lost their first three games at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and played the last seven quarters without the heart and soul of the team, Carlos Arroyo.
But Renaldo Balkman reassured everybody that the team is nowhere close to giving up hope of reaching the knockout stage.
"We've got guys that are injured. We're not strong right now. But we fought until the end," he said after Puerto Rico's 90-79 loss against Greece on Monday which dropped them to 0-3 along with the Philippines at the bottom of Group B.
Overall, we gotta come stronger than we're comin'. These teams are here to fight every night. We gotta come stronger. - Balkman
"We're not a great team. We're athletic but athletic doesn't count when you come against these big guys. We gotta keep fighting."
Fighting is one thing, but a team has to have the weapons as well. And Arroyo went down with an ankle sprain a minute into the second quarter of the team's game against Senegal on Day 2 and he missed the Greece contest.
"It's a big hit for us. We need him. He's one of our primary scorers. We need him to come out there with us. Unfortunately, things happens. He got hurt. But we can't dwell on that. We have to play every game. He's still with us, mentally. And we got his back," said Balkman, who also had to help pick up the slack for Angel Vassallo as the starting small forward also went down injured in the Senegal game and sat out against Greece.
"(Not having them) is in the back of our heads but we still gotta fight."
Puerto Rico hope Tuesday's rest day is enough for Arroyo and Vassallo to be ready to play the final two games against Philippines and Croatia.
One thing is certain for Balkman: Puerto Rico will keep fighting.
"We still got a chance. We have two more games. Even if they don't mean nothing right now we still have to go out there and fight. We can't give up. Puerto Rico's not a quitter, we'll never quit," he urged.
The power forward was also with Puerto Rico at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, where Arroyo suffered a bruised quadriceps resulting in him only played the first game before missing the rest of the tournament in Turkey. So far in Spain, Arroyo has only played five quarters plus one minute.
Still, Balkman said Arroyo has been there for the team.
"He told us (before the Greece game) to just stay strong mentally and keep it up. He was on the bench and gave all he could. He's a leader."
If Arroyo cannot go against Philippines, Puerto Rico will need other veterans to step up to remain in the race for the Round of 16.