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Tonga returns to FIBA competitions after 18 years
SAMOA (Polynesia Cup) - The island nation of Tonga will announce their return to FIBA competitions in their participation of the upcoming Polynesia Cup in Samoa on November 19-24.
Tonga Head Coach Niasi Malua expressed his excitement while also acknowledging the challenges they faced in their return to international competition.
"We are excited to play again in the international arena and hope we can make our country proud," said Malua.
"Although we are learning from the eligibility challenges, given we haven't participated in a FIBA tournament since 2000," he added.
Tonga's return to FIBA competitions is the first step in the right direction for the country's basketball federation but the Niasi is also keen on the team performing in the Polynesia Cup.
"The next step is getting everyone mentally, physically prepared to represent Tonga basketball at its highest level," said Malua.
"We have a scheduled exhibition friendly game with the 'Development Breakers' men's team to fine-tune where the guys are at going against a heavily developed opponent," he added.
Malua will lean heavily on Marcus Alipate who played for the Canterbury Rams in New Zealand's NBL.
"Our key player will be (Marcus) Alipate, he will be our main offensive threat while we shore up our defensive side," shared Malua.
FIBA Competitions Manager Amanda Jenkins shared her delight in having Tonga compete in the Polynesia Cup.
"We are excited to welcome Tonga back to FIBA competitions and hope they get their basketball program back on track. The youth competitions will also be a good place for them to start developing their future national team players," said Jenkins.
Despite the relative lack of experience coming to the Polynesia Cup, Malua believes they can gain valuable experience for the future of Tonga basketball.
"This will be Tonga's first time of participation so just coming in with the respect each team has its edge. But a challenge we are looking to learn and be able to showcase how Tonga plays basketball," he said.