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00 Javier Justiz (CUB)
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Cuba bets on its development process to return to the top

HABANA (Cuba) - There are few countries with the culture and sports history of this Caribbean island. Affiliated by FIBA in 1937, the Cuban Basketball Federation has been a benchmark for Caribbean basketball, obtaining medals in the Olympic Games, Pan American Games and Centrobasket Championships.

Now, a little more distant from those lucid moments in the discipline, Cuba continues to bet on the development process that once gave them a lot of glory. And that, in the present, also, has allowed the export of talents to leagues of first order in the world of basketball. All of this commanded by one of its most emblematic stars, Mr. Ruperto Herrera Tabio.

"In Cuba this is something that we always do. We have our youth championships, of the 10-12 age group, that begin in schools, then in municipalities, to provinces and then end in a national tournament. We also have games for the 13-15 age group, which also go through the grassroots stages and start with the National Olympiad that takes place in July. We have a cycle that begins with the 10-12 age group, the 13-15 age group and the 15-18 age group, culminating in the National League", explained Ruperto Herrera, president of the Cuban Basketball Federation.

The National Federation is aligned with FIBA, to promote the 3x3 basketball modality as an effective tool to popularize and develop the sport.

"In the past Central American and Caribbean Games [Barranquilla, Colombia 2019] sent a 3x3 women’s team and we got the silver medal. This is a modality that everyone who plays basketball has played before, and because of its ease of playing in an urban court, has developed a lot and it continues to grow," said Herrera.

As in many other countries, basketball in Cuba struggles to defend itself from other disciplines that surpass it in popularity, and in this particular case, also in competitive results and medals. But basketball continues to be one of the main entertainment options for Cubans.

"I believe that here in Cuba the national sport is baseball and I think that basketball is among the top three. We do not achieve the results obtained by other sports such as boxing, judo, wrestling, which are sports in which Cuba has many medals. But as a spectacle of the population, I think that baseball and basketball are the sports that attract more spectators to the courts."

Speaking of the Cuban National Team, Herrera did not hide his displeasure with their recent performance, after they were eliminated in the first round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers without winning a game.

"The team did not have a good result," said the leader. "We are going through some changes and transitions, we are forming a team that can be competitive in two 2 or three years, and we had to compete in the Qualification Windows with a group of players who were not ready to achieve a good result, and that’s why we didn’t qualify."

However, Herrera who joined the FIBA Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, expressed optimism about the generational change that is occurring, based especially on players who play internationally in some of the best leagues in the world and that Herrera hopes will reposition Cuba as contender in regional competitions.

"We are working to achieve good results in a short time, we already have players hired abroad with very good results as is the case of Javier Justiz who is in Zaragoza in Spain, like Jasiel Rivero who plays for Boca in Argentina and is the best scorer of the Argentinian National League. I think that this group of players that we have hired abroad, with the players we have working in Cuba will give us the possibility of having a team with good results," said Herrera.