25 August, 2023
10 September
Colombia v Puerto Rico
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Qualified Team Focus - Puerto Rico hungry for return to knockout stage

MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, presented by Wanda, will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.

Here is the number 20 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, three-time FIBA AmeriCup champions Puerto Rico.


How did they qualify

After failing to qualify for the FIBA Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament, Puerto Rico parted ways with head coach Eddie Casiano and brought in Nelson Colon, the tactician for Puerto Rican juggernauts Vaqueros de Bayamon. Puerto Rico managed to lock up their spot for the World Cup on the final game day in a qualification campaign with a share of ups and downs.

The first Americas Qualifiers window was played in a bubble in November 2021 in Mexico and Puerto Rico lost a Group D thriller to the home side 90-86 after 17 lead changes. Jezreel De Jesus was outstanding in the loss with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Puerto Rico bounced back in the second game from a 14-point deficit to beat Cuba 69-60.

The February 2022 window started with Colon's team falling to USA by 17 points to drop to 1-2 in the group. De Jesus however stepped up with 21 points in a 65-62 road win over Cuba.


Puerto Rico received a boost in the June/July 2022 window with Jose Alvarado joining the team. The NBA guard scored 20 points but Puerto Rico lost by 8 points to USA.

Puerto Rico escaped the window with at least one victory as they wasted an 18-point lead before beating Mexico 97-87 in overtime at home thanks to Alvarado collecting 22 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

Puerto Rico started the Second Round with a home game against Brazil in August 2022 and Tremont Waters poured in 29 points in his debut in front of 8,571 fans at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan in a 75-72 victory in Group F. Puerto Rico's roller-coaster ride continued though with an eight-point loss at Uruguay.

The FIBA AmeriCup 2022 followed in September 2022, and Puerto Rico were bounced in the Quarter-Finals with an 85-84 loss to USA.

Going back to the Americas Qualifiers in November 2022, Puerto Rico had two home games and great support for both qualifiers with at least 8,600 fans. Stephen Thompson and Waters combined for 43 points in a 12-point win over Colombia, and Waters had 17 points in a comeback win over Uruguay.

Puerto Rico started the February 2023 window with a massive 92-90 road victory over Brazil as Waters hit the game-winner at the buzzer and Christopher Ortiz scored 21 points. Puerto Rico eventually locked up their World Cup ticket in the final game - an 87-80 victory in Colombia.


Best result at the World Cup

Puerto Rico will be playing in the World Cup for the 15th time, including the 10th straight edition since 1986. The Caribbean country picked up three of their six top-eight showings in that stretch.

The only time Puerto Rico finished in the top four was in 1990 when they reached the Semi-Finals but lost to the Soviet Union in the last four and then fell to USA in overtime in the Third Place Game - for the country's top result. 


Last World Cup appearances

The last time Puerto Rico made the top eight was the Quarter-Finals in 2002. After that they failed to get out of the group stage in 2006, 2010 and 2014, finishing 17th, 18th and 19th respectively.

After picking up just one win in the previous two World Cups, Puerto Rico finally got out of the first group stage at China 2019, beating Iran 83-81 and Tunisia 67-64. In the Second Round, Puerto Rico lost 90-47 to Serbia and then 89-84 in overtime to Italy, having to settle for 15th place.


Players to watch

Puerto Rico should have a strong team for Indonesia, Japan and Philippines, led by Isaiah Pineiro, George Conditt and Tremont Waters.


But head coach Nelson Colon has plenty of other players who can take over games including Ethan Thompson, Stephen Thompson, Gian Clavell, Cuban-born Ismael Romero, and Christopher Ortiz.

Colon also knows there will be a lot of competition for the final 12 spots, including from the likes of Jordan Howard, Phillip Wheeler, and Aleem Ford.

Qualified Team Focus series

Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike:

Spain, Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada Finland, New Zealand, USA, Serbia, Brazil, Venezuela and Montenegro.