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Expectations at a high for Muñoz and Centrobasket hosts Panama

PANAMA (2016 Centrobasket Championship) - Panama's national team already started its preparation for the Centrobasket that will be held at the Roberto Duran Arena from June 19-25. Experienced and novice players are putting the work in, hoping for a good result.

One of those men is a veteran with 12 years on the national team under his belt, Joel Muñoz, who accepts the team already has its mind focused on the regional tournament.

The experienced point guard said they have "high hopes for the Centrobasket. We will be host during a very special moment for Panamanian basketball. We were crowned champions last year in the Central American Championship of Costa Rica and FIBA has given us this great opportunity to organize the most important event of the region. We will not try not to waste this opportunity and we will do a good job."

In the 2016 Liga de las Americas, Correcaminos de Colón, with several men of the national team, made a very good season, that again demonstrated the potential of Panamanian basketball.

"In the Liga de las Americas we made history as a country and in our region, by earning a spot in the top eight clubs of the continent. After many years of not participating in international club tournaments, Correcaminos participated under the leadership of Marcelo Signorelli, with big name players, and competed as equals against the best in the continent. It was a historic moment that gives us strength and hope that Panama could once again be the same as before," he said.

In recent times, many Panamanians players have had importance experiences in foreign leagues. There are many who argue that it can positively impact the national team that will face the Centrobasket.

Muñoz played as a reinforcement player in Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico and for him "it is important for us to always be active, playing and training throughout the year. Panama has been living in recent years one of its best groups of players abroad. That fills us with pride, knowing that in major leagues of South America and Central America we are represented. That gives us advantages for international tournaments, as our players are playing high level throughout the year."

After their participation in the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, some Panamanian players announced their retirement from the national team. However, efforts are being made so that some of them decide to participate in the Centrobasket in June, even though the idea of a logical generational change looms ever more strongly.

"The Federation deposited its trust in the best players that we currently have and most of them want to be part of this National Team. I do not know if Hicks and Garces will leave the team. I think both of them will make their decision closer to the tournament. Both, are great players who have worn the Panamanian shirt since they were young, and depending on how they feel, they will decide. The generational change is something that will always happen, on all teams. Some come, others go. Luckily, there are young players that want this dream opportunity. Therefore, we must continue working with the lower categories. They are our future," said Munoz.

In the Centrobasket, the host will face Puerto Rico, Cuba, Nicaragua and Antigua, during the group phase.

About the rivals, the Panamanian guard, who will turn 36 years-old during the Centrobasket, said it is "four countries with a totally different games style. We know their main players and we know they will be difficult opponents. We respect them all, they are all dangerous, but we have to trust our work."

The Panamanian Federation appointed Spanish coach Joaquín Ruiz Llorente, to lead the team during the Centrobasket. The coach from Zaragoza will debut in the tournament that will qualify the top teams to Americas Division A of the New FIBA Competition System.

Muñoz assessed that "this was a wise appointment, since the Federation opted for him because of his career. Now it’s up to us to work together and form a union for this tournament. The Coaches contributions will be important to meet the goal of earning the gold medal."