MEX - Vargas determined to win for Venezuela
GUADALAJARA (FIBA Americas League) - Jose Vargas has travelled to Mexico to compete for Estrellas Orientales in the FIBA Americas League with one thing in mind.
The 1.95m forward wants to win for his country.
Estrellas Orientales are among the Venezuelan sides taking part in the 12-team competition.
Vargas and Estrellas will be in action on Friday against Osos de Jalisco, while on Saturday they take on Lanus before squaring off against Pinheiros on Sunday.
"The FIBA competition is huge, it's like a competition of a national team level," said Vargas, who played for Venezuela last year at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela.
"It is something huge for us and for the country.
"We’re happy with the group (of players) that we have in order to compete here. We are here ready for everything, to win and to qualify.
"That is our expectation."
Vargas said there is cause for the Venezuelan basketball fans to be excited.
"We have a relatively young group," he said.
"The majority of the players that are here have played in the senior national team and there are three Americans that we know well because they have played in our league.
"I reiterate that our aim is to go on to qualify and to win the tournament."
Vargas has a good idea of what awaits Estrellas Orientales.
"We respect all our rivals," he said.
"The Pinheiros team I already faced in the South American league and it's a team that has a fighting spirit.
"They were the only team in the South American league that beat us and eliminated us.
"They have excellent players.
"The Argentinian team has good American players that have played in our league as well.
"They have always played good basketball.
"The Osos team I have just seen. It is not the same team as in the past but they look good.
"They have an experienced guard like Ramel Allen. They have several players that play great basketball. It is going to be tough. We have to take it one day at a time."
Argentina v Brazil in opener
The first game of the night sees Lanus take on Pinheiros.
"The FIBA Americas League is a very balanced competition," Pinheiros coach Claudio Mortari said.
"Fortunately, our first opponents will be the team of Lanus, Argentina, and we already have a lot of information about them.
"The fact that we are facing a known team on our debut is a positive factor.
"Then we will have the opportunity to watch the game between the Mexican and Venezuelan teams live.
"Afterward, we'll plan our strategy for the other two games.
Pinheiros won't be at full strength.
Group B, which has Flamengo and former champions Uniceub BRB, along with Estrellas Occidentales and Fuerza Regia, will have games 8-10 February.
Group C teams include defending champions Pioneros de Quintana Roo, Mavort and Capitanes de Arecibo. Their games will be played 22-24 February.
The first two teams in each group, and the two best third-place teams, will advance from the Preliminary Round to the Semi-Finals.
The Semis will begin 8 March and conclude 17 March.
The Final Four will be held 29, 30 and 31 March.