25 August, 2017
03 September
Eddie Casiano Jr (PUR)
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Puerto Rico's Casiano trusts his team’s rebuilding

MEDELLIN (FIBA AmeriCup 2017) - Basketball is a sport than creates a lot of excitement in Puerto Rico, and with the AmeriCup around the corner there is much anticipation as to what the much-awaited rebuilding requested by the Puerto Rican fan base can do.

For this new competition cycle, the Boricua team has set out to give the opportunity to new local talents that are expected to be a part of the program during future events, such as the FIBA Qualifying Windows that start in November.

In comparison with their last international tournament, the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade (Serbia), the Puerto Ricans only repeat one player, Center Jorge Bryan Díaz. Of the 12 players that will be in the first AmeriCup phase in Medellin, half will make their official debut with the senior national team: Point Guard Ángel Rodríguez; Forwards Emmanuel Andújar, Chris Gastón, Chris Ortiz and Juan Ramón Rivas; and Center Tyler Davis.

Nonetheless, it appears as though there is not much hope in Puerto Rico as to what this group can achieve in this continental tournament, a predicament that is no new news for Coach Eddie Casiano.

“They're very excited for this challenge, although we know that not many people believe in them. But they will compete and give it their best,” Casiano said. He's also counting on other players with little experience in the senior team, such as Gilberto Clavell and Alex Abreu.

“It's difficult (to rebuild), but it must be done. I trust this group of guys. They deserve the fans’ support. We can't ignore them. Maybe in the future they’ll be the next Carlos Arroyo, José Juan Barea, José “Piculín” Ortiz or Jerome Mincy. We must give them a chance,” Casiano added. This is his second year at the head of this national team.

Puerto Rico has been a headliner at the FIBA continental tournaments. Under the FIBA Americas format, they were three-time champions (1980, 1989, 1995) and made it to the podium in 10 occasions, an honor shared with Brazil, and which was only surpassed by Argentina, with 12 podium endings.

At Medellin, Puerto Rico intend to win the only ticket available to their group for the Final Four at Córdoba, Argentina. The Caribbean squad have made it to the top four teams 14 times of the total of 17 editions of the continental tournaments, only failing to do so in 1984, 2005 and 2015. A team full of rookies, it’s still a matter of waiting and seeing if Puerto Rico take the ticket to this tournament’s Semi-Final. But nervousness is certainly not a part of their equation.

“We're not nervous. There's a lot of expectation, of joy. This is simply an opportunity for me to represent Puerto Rico, which has always been a dream of mine, and I'm sure that it's the same for the other guys,” Point Guard Ángel Rodríguez said. This will be his debut with the senior team. “We’ll enjoy this. We worked to be here and there's nothing to fear,” he assured.