Eddie Casiano: “We are forming a culture”

Confirmed the elimination of the men’s National Basketball Team in the pre-Olympic to Tokyo in Serbia, the national coach Eddie Casiano said that the group of players who played for him in the event is promising.

The national team lost their two matches in the Olympic Repechage and were eliminated in the semifinal phase of the event, as had been anticipated weeks before, after the unavailability to play in Serbia of experienced or physical players.

It was the fourth time in a row (17 years) that Puerto Rico failed to qualify for the Olympics.

Coach Eddie Casiano, former member of the last Puerto Rican Olympic basketball team that shone in Athens 2004, regretted the elimination, but praised the group of players based on delivery, discipline and performance on the court against World Cup teams.

“For me this group is peculiar. It is one of the best I had because I wanted to learn, with great intensity in practice. There were no complaints. There were no groups that did not want to practice and divided the team. There was a lot of enthusiasm and they were very receptive, ”said the coach under contract until 2023.

“And that says a lot because good things can happen. We lost. That is clear, but the good thing is that at least we took a big step forward. The group has to keep it up and add some pieces to it to keep wearing it ”, he added.

“We got (George) Conditt started and he surprised everyone with his qualities on a world level. He is used to playing with players his age. (Timajh) Parker is fine. Gary (Browne) showed why he plays in Europe. Gian (Clavell), (Isaiah) Piñeiro are guys of that level. You have to add positive pieces to them, not people who come here thinking that this is a springboard to play in Europe or a social club ”.

If Puerto Rico had achieved a pass to Tokyo, it would have meant returning to the Olympic venue where it finished in fourth position at the 1964 Olympics. with players such as Juan ‘Pachín’ Vicens, Teo Cruz, Johnny Báez and the flag-bearer of the Puerto Rico delegation, Jaime Frontera.

The National Team suffered physically in Serbia and paid the price in stamina during matches that entered the final period within reach of the rivals.

Casiano said that the rivals wore down the Puerto Ricans.

“We ran a bit out of gas from the supernatural effort of us to compete on both sides of the court. Defensively they force you to rotate and, offensively, they hit you and collide and that wears out the level of play a lot, “he said.

Puerto Rico assisted Serbia with the absence of experienced players such as José Juan Barea and physicists like Tyler Davis. Neither did Shabazz Napier, who demonstrated his ability to help on the international level in his first appearance with Puerto Rico this year.

What happened in Serbia was anticipated by the absence of players.

Casiano said that José Juan Barea has the doors open after they have a conversation.
Casiano said that José Juan Barea has the doors open after they have a conversation. (Ramon Tonito Zayas)

Casiano reacted this Sunday to the events of talent losses in the months prior to the Team’s departure for Serbia. In addition to Barea, Napier and Davis, Ramón Clemente and Javier Mojica were also killed by National Team retirements. David Huertas had previously retired.

The casualties seemed a sequel to the crisis that the National Team had at the beginning of the year, when Barea publicly said that the Puerto Rico Basketball Federation should change Casiano from the leadership because he did not achieve the expected results.

Casiano reacted by saying that it is the end of an era for many of those players.

“They are cycles. The stages and cycles end. I retired at 36 years old. We have to continue. When my contract ends, I go out. These older players must leave. Young players are coming and you have to give them a chance. That group I picked up in 2016 was ending. I had a difficult part. That group had many problems, such as that they had five different leaders and did not have continuity. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel, ”he said.

Barea has not retired, although it appears he will accept a job as an assistant on the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks coaching staff.

“José Juan is a glorious player from Puerto Rico, but like everything … here we are forming a culture. If he wants to be part of that culture, he has to work like everyone else. With respect that we know what level of player he is, but to be in a team like this we need to look for players who can assimilate the work and be positive leaders. He could do it, but he would have to talk to me at some point and he talks. I don’t have any kind of problem with Barea, ”he said.