Maurice Harkless’ FIBA World Cup Participation in Doubt
In a surprising turn of events, Orlando Magic wing player Maurice Harkless may not participate for the Puerto Rican national team in the FIBA World Cup after all. Puerto Rican national team basketball Head Coach Paco Olmos has been unsuccessful in persuading both Harkless and Miami Heat rookie Shabazz Napier to join the team as of now. FIBA’s news outlet reported a week ago that Harkless had still not committed, which now has Spanish news outlets doubting if Maurice will wear Puerto Rican colors.
Puerto Rico’s preliminary roster for the August 1st through 7th Centrobasket tourney in Mexico has been released. Harkless and Napier are not on there. Neither are country legends Peter John Ramos, Larry Ayuso, former Magic man Carlos Arroyo, and Daniel Santiago. Although, it’s assumed that Arroyo – who is on the World Cup roster and is practicing with the team – and the 38-year-old Santiago will be on the team that begins World Cup play August 30th in Spain. Jose Barea and Renaldo Balkman are familiar names in the preliminary roster. Former UCF Knights guard Isaac Sosa is also on the roster. It is not uncommon for top Puerto Rican players to avoid Centrobasket but still play in the immediate major tournament that follows it, so there’s still time for the 21-year-old Harkless.
It was known back in January that Maurice would be playing for Puerto Rico during the NBA offseason after Harkless met with Paco Olmos. Towards the tail end of the ’13-’14 campaign, Maurice wasn’t hiding his excitement for participating in international basketball for the first time in his life. Harkless would be a high minutes contributor on the team and would be given a grand stage to show off improvements in his skill set. Puerto Rico is joined in World Cup Group B by Argentina, Croatia, Greece, the Philippines, and Senegal.
The Puerto Rican squad has already been in training camp for a few days now. The door is still open for Harkless to join the team, but I imagine the basketball federation wants Maurice to be practicing with his teammates as soon as possible since he’d be a newcomer. It’s unknown why there’s such delay and doubt about Maurice’s participation, but the tournament would be a crucial learning and growing experience for Maurice. Magic fans should hope to see their 6′ 7″ athlete competing in Spain.