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A veteran, NBA flavor to Puerto Rico's preliminary squad
SAN JUAN (2016 FIBA Olympics Qualifying Tournaments) - True to his word, new Puerto Rico coach Eddie Casiano is going to include giant center Peter John Ramos and veteran playmaker Carlos Arroyo in his preliminary squad for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade.
According to Primera Hora, 16 of the 24 players will be Ramos, Arroyo, Shabazz Napier, Maurice Harkless, John Holland, Jose Barea, Renaldo Balkman, Carlos Rivera, Larry Ayuso, Angel Daniel Vassallo, Richard Chaney, Ramon Clemente, Jorge Bryan Diaz, Ricky Sanchez, Alex Galindo and David Huertas.
Discarded by former coach Paco Olmos for the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Ramos also missed last summer's FIBA Americas Championship campaign under ex-boss Rick Pitino.
Arroyo was also absent from last year's tournament in Mexico City where Puerto Rico finished fifth but Casiano wants all hands on deck to prepare for the OQT, where the Boricuas will square off against Angola and Serbia in Group A and potentially face Group B sides the Czech Republic, Japan and Latvia in the knockout stage. Only the side that wins the OQT will advance to the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Dallas Mavericks star Barea was Puerto Rico's leading scorer at last year's FIBA Americas Championship. He averaged more than 20 points per game and exploded for 37 in a win over the Dominican Republic.
Barea had been the national team's best player at the World Cup in Spain the previous year, averaging 17 points, 9.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Napier (Orlando Magic), Harkless (Portland Trail Blazers) and Holland (Boston Celtics) are the other three NBA players involved. Napier would appear to have a good chance of taking part in the OQT but Harkless is a restricted free agent with the Portland Trail Blazers and Holland has a non-guaranteed contract with Boston.
The Celtics would like Holland, who first played for the Boricuas in 2011 and did feature last summer in Mexico City, to play in the Summer League and the dates of that competition conflict with those of the OQT in Belgrade (4-9 July).
"The reality is that neither (Harkless or Holland) have said 'yes' or 'no'," national team director Angelo Medina said to Primera Hora. "Time is running out and we have to decide soon."
Puerto Rico are looking to return to the Olympics for the first time since 2004, when they upset the United States on the opening day and went on to reach the Quarter-Finals before falling to Italy.
The country has played at the last two OQTs but failed to clinch a spot in the Summer Games on both occasions.