CORDOBA (FIBA AmeriCup 2017) – Following USA’s 81-76 win over Argentina in the FIBA AmeriCup 2017 Final, FIBA Americas President Usie Richards stepped into the court to hand the continental champions their new hardware.
The FIBA AmeriCup 2017 just ended, what were your highlights of the continental competition?
It was a pleasure to be able to live and be present for two of the preliminary groups, in Medellin, Colombia and Montevideo, Uruguay. I think the environment and atmosphere for the fans was great, along with the support that has been provided by the federations for all the participating national teams. It has been very encouraging looking forward to the Americas Qualifiers to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 that are just around the corner. The FIBA AmeriCup 2017 was an important first step towards involving all of our national federations in being active participants and stakeholders in the promotion and development of our sport. Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay did an excellent job and served as an example of what can be achieved if we work together for the good of basketball.
In the Semi-Finals of this 2017 edition, all of the Americas’ sub-zones and sub sub-zones were represented (USA - North America, Mexico - COCABA, Virgin Islands - CBC and Argentina - CONSUBASQUET), what does this say about the current competitive level and parity basketball has in the region?
It shows what a great opportunity we have for growth. It is a mission of FIBA to strengthen our national federations and this tournament provided success stories for everybody to see the possibilities moving forward. I expect a whole lot to come out of the three sub-zones, what is known as North America, South America, and Central America and the Caribbean. And it's good to see a team from COCABA, which is the Central American regional team from the Caribbean Basketball Confederation, the CBC, that are here representing CONCENCABA, something that is very healthy for our competition.
You have been FIBA Americas President for three years now. How do you view the development that national federations have undergone in the region?
I believe there's been some positive growth. Particularly, when we look at the opportunities that have been given to support our sub-sub zones of the Central America and the Caribbean. We know that we have a good structural organization in all of the Americas and we continue to work with all of our national federations to assist them in the new era of international basketball that will have them in the spotlight of the sports landscape in each of their countries. Our job is to have them be ready to take advantage of all the opportunities coming their way in November. Their national team is coming home, playing in front of their fans and this is huge to maximize and accelerate their development. This AmeriCup did it for the South American Basketball Confederation (CONSUBASQUET). They were able to host the entire competition, galvanize their fans toward the national team, generate momentum, and saw great things come out of this opportunity. It was an important example that can be replicated throughout our region.
The 12 countries that played FIBA AmeriCup 2017 will then compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers, along with Bahamas, Chile, Cuba and Paraguay. What are your expectations looking forward to FIBA's new competition system and calendar?
We are excited and confident in the work we have done to have this new era for international basketball in the Americas be a success. Our national federations are into it and ready to serve the overall mission of FIBA to promote the sport. November represents a historic moment for all of us that have been international basketball lifers and will see the dream of having national teams playing in front of their fans on a regular basis become a reality. The Americas basketball family is ready to take this next step.