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MEX - Santana confident of youthful hosts making a splash
XALAPA (FIBA Americas Championship for Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - Even if they are closer to underdogs than genuine contenders, Mexico head coach Ray Santana still has every reason to be in a positive frame of mind when the hosts step out on home soil at the FIBA Americas Championship for Women.
In fact, the role of underdogs suits Santana just fine, since he has already proven what is possible during his tenure, having previously led Mexico to a silver medal at the Pan-American Games a couple of years ago – their first success at the event in four decades.
It is the kind of outcome which can potentially inspire his current crop of players. Although the play-caller is acutely aware that with a relatively young team, instant success should not be expected and especially without the inspirational veteran Erika Gomez, who poured in 18.5 points per game in Columbia two years ago.
"We must be realistic because Mexico is a young team and this will be a long-term process" explained Santana.
"But, we're going to try and get the best results like in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara during 2011, when nobody believed in us.
"We lost a lot with the release of Erika Gomez, but we will try to make things right.
"Even if we can not classify (in Xalapa) we will continue working with our young athletes and prepare for next year's events like the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz.”
This pragmatic approach of Santana in looking to the horizon is a justifiable one, since the long-term outlook does indeed appear to be bright.
In particular because the younger girls recently helped Mexico to qualify for the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, which will be held next year in Slovak Republic.
And, the signs have been hugely encouraging in preparation leading up to the more pressing matter of the action in Xalapa.
The players have dug out a couple of wins against Chile and even when they slipped 84-79 to Cuba a few days ago, Santana was eager to heap praise on his team and accentuate the positives.
"I'm proud of all the girls that have made the selection" he insisted.
"We are a team full of college players and we braved Cuba, a powerhouse of women's basketball.
"This is the way (to go), with more work, and despite the defeat, we played a great game and the conclusions are positive."
Mexico will look for the trio of Alexis Castro, Abril Garcia, and Brisa Silva to lead the way, much like the latter two did in El Salvador last month, when Mexico took gold at the COCABA Championship for Women.
Mexico are in Group B and will go up against Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
The FIBA Americas Championship for Women runs between 21 and 28 September.