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Mexico, a gold medal that hints at the future

MEXICO CITY — The national youth team achieved an important feat by ending the COCABA U16 Championship in Guatemala with a record of five wins, all with a significant point-difference, and no defeats. They took home the gold medal and the qualification to the U17 Centrobasket which will take place this year.

The Mexican Basketball Sports Association (ADEMEBA, for its Spanish acronym), with their national teams worked for two and a half years to get this precious medal, that puts into perspective what the future of the Mexican national team will bring.

The Mini Guerreros ended with a perfect record. Their work has Mexican basketball optimistic and, for now, the first step has been taken, but the project must continue to be strengthened. The triumphs were by a wide margin, evidencing the players’ preparation. They defeated the local Guatemala team, 122-42; and were also able to overpower El Salvador (92-41), Honduras (109-30), Panama (73-55) and Costa Rica (84-63) and featured Nicolás Meza, born in Ensenada, and who plays and studies in the United States (at West Coast Elite), as the tournament's best scorer.

Enrique Zúñiga commandeers this national team. During several years he was one of the most constant players in the national Mexican team’s activities. He played in European basketball and became a spearhead for Lechugueros de León in the National Mexican Basketball League (LNBP, for its Spanish acronym). Now, as a trainer in this championship, he took on the great task of developing the players. The results have been not been by chance — they exist because there has been a great process to prepare this generation.

“I like the basketball style we're playing, it's a European style, that also renders results in the senior national team. We don’t have the physical structure to play the fast, American basketball, but we do have Spain’s, and I believe that produces good results,” stated the trainer who was accompanied by coach Ronald Guillén as his assistant. Both are in Iván Déniz’s staff in the senior national team and have the objective of continuing the project of giving opportunities to young talents and strengthening minor categories.

After more than 10 days of training camp in Chiapas and friendly matches with professional teams like Lacandones, of Chiapas, and Cafetaleros of Tapachula, the team arrived in perfect condition to the Central American championship.

“I'm very happy, but this is the only the beginning because there is much work to do in the next phase, we have to train thinking about Centrobasket, about what is the biggest challenge, since we’ll be facing countries of a great level, such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico,” added the coach.

The Mexican Basketball Sports Association has been working for two and a half years with this team’s development. Many of these players were detected and included in a national working program through a scouting process where the most important thing wasn’t the level of the game, but the height of the players upon which the talent would be then developed.

“We also have the game statistics that help us achieve our goals, such as an improvement in three-point shots and elevating the free-throw percentages,” added the Mexican.

The Mexican national team didn't focus on the competition and their results in the games. Rather, they set their sights on developing their players.

“We gave priority to their defense and offense reactions, and to situations like the game against Panama, where they even passed us in scores. Seeing the reaction of both the staff and the players as a team, that's the basketball we want to have for our national teams. (We want to experience) these types of situations, where you must see how to get up in that scoreboard and getting the advantage again. I know we have a lot of possibilities to have good results in this Centrobasket in August,” added the coach.

Meanwhile, Mexican coach Mario Méndez, who’s also the President of the Central American Basketball Confederation (COCABA) knows that Mexico needs to develop its basketball, which is why he aims to build a better process from the ground up, with workshops for Central America. The priority will be to educate and develop trainers and players, to take them to another level of knowledge and action to improve COCABA’s competition so that more countries can meet the necessary standards of competition for Centrobasket and the World Cup Qualifiers. Also, there are plans for the creation of schools for coaches and referees and increase the capabilities of the directors to improve management aspects.

“I hope that in these four years we can elevate the level of play in Central America. Our main pillar will be to prepare all levels to improve the level in all these countries, so that our present is brighter and our future greater for the national teams,” said the COCABA President.

Like this, the gold medal evidences the work done by the federations and associations around the world. And when it’s in a category of basketball that fosters development, a hopeful future lies ahead.