Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Diamond Ball basketball could come to Macau

Posted by Kimberly on July 31, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
July 31, 2007, page 4 (987 words)

Macau is in the running to host the next Diamond Ball basketball tournament as a lead up to the Beijing Olympic Games, according to Mr Bob Elphinston, President of the International Federation of Basketball (FIBA).
Speaking at a press conference for the Stankovic Cup yesterday, Mr Elphinston believes Macau will become a very important host for basketball, pointing at the upcoming game between the NBA and China in October.
“I have no doubt [of Macau’s ability to host] and I’d be very interested to look at the games in the next three nights here,” he said.
“To look at how well the match is presented, how well they are attended by the Macau people, because this is an excellent city for the hosting of international basketball.
“We hope that in the future Macau might well want to be the stage for FIBA World Junior events or a FIBA World Cup or other special matches that we have, for example, the Diamond ball which is a major tournament on the eve of the Olympic Games.
“It’s quite possible Macau could host that,” he added.
Asked what his thoughts were on the matches played so far and the teams representing each country, Mr Elphinston gave praise to Slovenia, “very very strong”, Venezuela, “have been impressive” and New Zealand, “you can’t discount [the team] who are getting stronger and stronger”, but admitted that Angola was “probably the surprise team, very very strong.”
When put on the spot to choose one team he felt would most likely win the tournament he said, “I think Angola might surprise people.”
This comment was then put by the Macau Daily Times to the Angolan team who responded with “We are trying to do our best to give dignity to our country and it’s also a way for us to thank all the organiser who invited us to these matches.”
They added that this tournament was being used as a vehicle to prepare for the upcoming African Basketball Nations Cup in August to be held in Angola, for which the country has won eight times.
The desire to use the Stankovic Cup as a means of rehearsal seemed to be echoed among the other teams present, particularly Slovenia, New Zealand and The United States.
The Slovenian team will be using the tournament to prepare for the Eurobasket 2007 competition to be held in Spain in September, although, of the Stankovic Cup, they said “it’s normal that you want to win and we will be going into the matches in this tournament 100 percent and try to win all the games.”
New Zealand have an upcoming match against Australia next month they are keen to win, as the winner of that series will go on to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
This may prove difficult with injuries to three of their most experienced players and the introduction of a new coach in Nenad Vucinic who, according to Grant Chapman, Basketball New Zealand’s communications manager, “is changing the team’s system quite a lot [which] will take some time for the players to adjust to.”
But neither of these issues seem to concern the team as much as would be expected.
“Australia have lost four of their top players,” said Mr Chapman.
“That’s not to say they’re a weak team, they’ve got a very strong team even without those players.
“But our guys have played them several times now and done well against them, beat them the last time they played on Australian soil, so I would say that we’re confident of doing well in this series,” he added.
Lastly, the United States players have only been together as a team for about 6 days, according to 25-year-old Forward Quemont Greer.
“We’re still gelling, trying to get together as a unit and just get out there and play together and play hard and play well as a team,” he added.
The team’s coach, Larry Smith, agrees that “it’s a little tougher” but adds that “I have a great couple of guys here and they come out and compete and work hard every day.
“When you put together a unit in such a short period of time it’s tough…but they’ve done a good job of them.
“The guys are extremely competitive and determined to do well in this tournament,” he said.
Despite the lacklustre results by the American team so far, Mr Smith considers the team to be the underdog and plans on using that to their advantage, adamant that their chance is “as good as any.”
But asked whether he believes any particular team was a worry, he said “we don’t really worry about who our opponent is, we just come out and do the best job we can.”
Currently, the teams to beat appear to be Angola and Slovenia, with the two teams having won both matches so far.
On the other hand, New Zealand and Venezuela seem to be slow starters, with both yet to win a match and the remaining teams, China and the United States (US) sitting in the middle with a win and a loss each.
Coming up later today, the United States will play Venezuela, Angola against China and New Zealand to try to overcome Slovenia.
Wednesday will see the US against Angola, New Zealand battling China and Venezuela confronting Slovenia.
The last matches played on Thursday pit Venezuela against New Zealand, China against the US and Angola trying to stay at the top against equal match Slovenia.
The Stankovic Cup is currently in its 3rd year.
It was originally meant to be co-hosted by Chengdu and Hangzhou provinces in China, who had to pull out for various financial, legal and venue reasons.
The first stage of the match was held between July 28 and 29 in Guangzhou.
The event is a tribute to Borislav Stankovic, the prior Secretary General of FIBA who launched and sponsors the tournament.

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