GUAYNABO (FIBA Americas League) - Sixteen teams will compete in the first edition of the FIBA Americas League aiming to be crowned the best team in the continent.
Contenders have been drawn into four groups of four, with pools played in four different venues before the play-offs. The winners of the fourplay-off ties advance to a quadrangular final round.
Group A will be played at Manuel Quijote Morales stadium in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and BSN League champions Cangrejeros will host American side PBL All Star, Metros Santiago of Dominican Republic and Mexican side Soles, who won the LNBP League last season.
Tony Ruiz was named as Cangrejeros head coach last week, having been given special dispensation by the board of Mexican side Dorados.
Ruiz is confident the Santurce-based team will advance to next round.
"We'll prove why we are the BSN champions," he said.
"The team playing will not be Cangrejeros. It will be the team of Puerto Rico."
Group B will be played in Miami, with the Miami Tropics as hosts, but their debut will not be easy as they play Halcones Xalapa, the best team in the current LNBP season.
Puerto Rican side Capitanes and Mexico's Fuerza Regia complete this group, which gets under way next Tuesday.
In Belo Horizonte, Group C will see the recently-crowned South American Championship winners Minas Tenis welcome compatriots Flamengo, Defensor
Sporting of Uruguay and the reigning Argentinian Liga Nacional champions Boca Juniors.
Minas Tenis director of basketball Alexandre Cunha said: "The Americas League is very important for our club and for Brazilian sport too.
"It will be the equivalent of the Copa Libertadores in football and next year we could organise a Club World Cup too, as happens in football.
"Minas are the South American champions, we host a big event and we are proud of it. We have a very important opportunity to advance to the latter stages."
Meanwhile, Boca Juniors international star Leonardo Gutierrez, who will be one of the key players in the league, commented: "To have such an important tournament like the Americas league is very important. We have teams from the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico, so it becomes tougher.
"I hope we can play well to reach the quadrangular final round."
Finally in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the 2006-07 Liga Nacional runners-up Penarol share Group D with compatriots Libertad, Universo of Brazil and Chile's Dimayor champions Liceo Mixto.
Penarol boss Sergio Hernandez, who also manages Argentina, said: "I'm still surprised by hearing about the importance of this league. I think we'll take part in a tremendously big event."
Group D gets under way on January 8, after the Christmas and New Year celebrations.