BUENOS AIRES (FIBA Americas Championship/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Danny Santiago has been with Puerto Rico for the highs and lows.
A 36-year-old center, Santiago has played at every FIBA World Championship since 1998.
This summer, he’ll try to help Puerto Rico qualify for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The Puerto Ricans will need a top-four finish at the FIBA Americas Championship to gain a spot in next year’s 24-team event in Spain.
Earlier this month, the Boricuas were drawn in Group A with Brazil, Canada, Uruguay and Jamaica.
“The truth is,” Santiago said, “that we have a group that isn't easy at all but gives us tests to reach the next round.
“In some ways, it will be better for us.”
Puerto Rico coach Flor Melendez will have a large pool of very talented players to select his final 12-man squad from.
“We'll have a quality team,” Santiago said, “but the issue is how to play together on the court.
“There is tremendous talent but at times, we're not able to show the level we are able to be at.
“Sometimes, we're successful and others, we're not.
“I hope that this time we are able to be concentrated and play well.”
Basketball is the number one sport in Puerto Rico, and with that comes a lot of pressure for the players.
“We have a good balance of veterans and young players to take the national team to the next level,” Santiago said.
“That is very important.
“There is a lot of pressure because the people want us to win something and many times, we’ve been close.
“I hope we can achieve something in the coming years.”
Santiago has captured medals with Puerto Rico at FIBA Americas Championships, including a bronze in 2003 and silver in 2009.
He also help the country to a seventh-place finish at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, and sixth at the Athens Games two years later.
One experience that turned him and his Puerto Rican teammates into heroes happened at those Greece Olympics.
Santiago played 25 minutes in the a 92-73 upset of the United States.
"The Puerto Rican people want people that can lift the country and basketball is a sport that is growing a lot there,” he said to the reloj23 website in Argentina.
"I’ve had the opportunity to be part of history against big teams because we are a very small country of three million people.
“That's why people become proud and that gives us a lot of support.”