GOLD FUELS MEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL

GOLD FUELS MEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL

📅17 June 2015
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By John Baza

The elusive gold medal is an honor that the Guam basketball team have been chasing since the SPG’s in the 70s.  After coming up short the last two games, the Guam team has been revamped and is thirsty once again to capture the gold and end the drought.

Keep in mind, this year’s Pacific Games features some rule changes. Since officially changing from the South Pacific Games to the Pacific Games, under the control of FIBA, the games also features residency and eligibility changes as well.

“FIBA has requested, along with the Pacific Games Counsel, that Basketball Teams all use FIBA Residency Guidelines for these Pacific Games, as this tournament is a qualifier for future FIBA competition against other countries from the region. These FIBA Guidelines allow for certain players to be considered for our team roster that were previously not eligible”, said team Guam’s head coach EJ Calvo.

One thing surely hasn’t changed, and that is the team’s drive and motivation to capture what they have not been able to achieve for so long, the gold medal.

“We are focused and determined to accomplish this mission”, said Calvo on the team’s determination. “Guam basketball has arguably been the most successful sport’s team in Guam history. We want the gold this summer for all the teams that battled and fell short”, added Calvo.

Garnering the silver medal in the last 4 SPG’s, medaling in all but one SPG’s and going undefeated in the Micronesian Games there is no question that Guam Basketball is dominating in the region, providing a white light to inspire future teams not only for the island but in the Pacific as well.

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New Additions

Guam’s newest additions:  Division 1 college post player, Jonathan Galloway, and Australian Pro League (NBL) Player, Tai Wesley, will also accompany the national team to the Pacific Games thanks to FIBA’s rule changes. They haven’t even played on the team yet and are already set to make an impact with their size and experience.

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Men’s National Basketball Team member William Stinnett

“We have always had great guard play but always struggled with our inside game, height makes a huge impact especially on defense. We can now match up with regard to rebounding and when guarding the opposing team’s post players”, replied team veteran Will Stinnett on the impact Galloway and Wesley will provide.

Tai Wesley, a former Guam resident, lived on the island for the required 5 years and is a former Yona resident having attended M.U. Lujan Elementary. Wesley’s 6’7” frame and college/professional experience provides a strong low post threat for the team.

In addition, Wesley is a graduate of Utah State, playing on the basketball team and notably being named the Western Athletic conference player of the year in 2011.  These days he continues to play ball on a professional level as a power-forward for the NBL Champions, the New Zealand Breakers.

Jonathan Galloway is a 19-year-old post player at Division 1 College, UC Irvine in California. Young Galloway is already making a name for himself as a rebounding specialist and shot blocker according to Coach EJ Calvo.

Galloway’s Guam heritage stems from the southern village of Umatac as his mother, Gina Quinata Diaz Galloway, was born on the island. Calvo included, “He is excited to represent the island and plans to contribute at both post positions at 6’10” for years to come.”

Pacific Game Connections

No stranger to the Games, team veteran and post player Seve Susuico is confident that the passion and will to win will help drive the Guam team to the gold.

“We have made it to the Gold medal game the past three games, so we have been doing the right things. This time we are all smarter, stronger and more motivated with a new head coach (Calvo) that is just as passionate about bringing home what belongs in Guam… Gold,” said Susuico.

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Men’s National Basketball team member Seve Susuico

Susuico recalls the many late nights and car rides in where his father, the local basketball legend Tony Susuico, would constantly remind him of what the team needs to do to win gold, “He would always say the same thing ‘you just have to want it more than the other guys’, and this year we definitely do.”

The senior Susuico was a key member of the last Guam team to win the gold, note they won gold in back to back games (1975-Guam, 1979-Fiji). With not only a legacy to carry on, but also an honor to bring home, Seve Susuico and the Guam team veterans are surely playing with a chip on their shoulder and are hungrier than ever to bring home the gold.

Another matchup to note is the meeting of Chaminade teammates Michael Sakazaki and Frankie Etuati. For those who don’t know, Sakazaki is a former IIAAG boys basketball MVP who lived on Guam up until his move to pursue college basketball. Etuati, who is a 6’11” starting center for the Silverswords, will be representing his heritage with American Samoa for the first time.

“It feels great to be going against Frankie! We’ve been teammates for the past two years and have developed a great friendship. It’s actually nice and exciting to be able to battle it out for our respective countries”, replied Sakazaki. He also includes that he and Etuati are partners in drill during practices, often pushing each other to work harder.

Team Progress

With the Pacific Games just around the corner, the Guam team is looking more prepared than ever. Featuring a versatile mix of seasoned veterans and young guns, the experience has proven to be a learning experience for the younger half of the team.

“Playing with the veterans has been nothing but a great experience. I’ve looked up to these guys since I was a young kid so to play alongside them is an honor. I’ve picked up a lot from them and gained valuable basketball knowledge, but most importantly I’ve learned to play with pride and respect as you represent your island and give it your all” replied Sakazaki.

“Our Men’s Team is a little beat up with a couple minor injuries…but conditioning has gone well and we are putting the final touches on our game plan”, replied Coach EJ on the team’s progress thus far.

Training 4-5 days a week and preparing for various potential opponents and scenarios, Calvo feels that the team is comfortable for whatever may arise but they are surely not content.

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Joe Blas runs through plays during practice. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Dreams of gold

When we win the Gold in the Pacific Games… When, not if… That’s what we tell each other.  Winning the gold for Guam would mean the world to me..bringing honor to Guam and our people has always been a passion..what better way to show you love them than by bringing home the bling! –Seve Susuico

“(Winning gold) would be such a huge accomplishment, especially because we haven’t won the Gold since 1970’s. Another incentive for us is that this year’s Pacific Games Gold Medal team will automatically be invited to the Olympic qualifying games that will take place next year”, added Stinnett on the team’s drive to clinch Gold.

Stinnett concludes with a striking statement that could only provide more motivation for Guam saying,  “Australia and New Zealand will be joining the Pacific Games following this year’s tournament, for us, this is probably the last high percentage chance for Guam to get the Gold Medal in these particular games.”

There is no doubt that our Guam national teams will prosper in this year’s Pacific Games, with every game, event or race, know what and who you represent. But most importantly, know who will always be there to support you whether in person or in spirit, your island! Good luck Team Guam!

TEAM GUAM PAC GAMES ROSTER

Tai Wesley
Jonathan Galloway
J.P. Cruz
Will Stinnett
Seve Susuico
Joe Blas
John Chaco
Reggie Rechebong
James Stake
Vince Estella
Michael Sakazaki
Kyle Husslein

Head Coach- EJ Calvo

PHOTO GALLERY:

Guam's Reggie Rechebong looks for the open man during offensive sets at practice. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Guam’s Reggie Rechebong looks for the open man during offensive sets at practice. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Guam's sharpshooter JP Cruz gets ready for his first ever Pacific Games. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Guam’s sharpshooter JP Cruz gets ready for his first ever Pacific Games. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

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