New Basketball Federation of Papua New Guinea President Karo Maha Lelai already has her sights on the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands ©FIBA

Qualifying for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands is the target set by the new President of the Basketball Federation of Papua New Guinea, Karo Maha Lelai.

Maha Lelai was unanimously elected to replace former President, Nick Daroa, last month and has made clear her ambitions for the national teams.

Qualifying for 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara is due to start next year at the International Basketball Association (FIBA) Melanesia Cup in Fiji, provisionally scheduled for May, although the final date is set to depend on how the coronavirus crisis develops.

The top two teams in the tournament will secure automatic qualification to the Pacific Games.

"We have already talked to the National Olympic Committee for support to get our teams to travel to Fiji for the qualification matches," Maha Lelai told the Post Courier in Papua New Guinea.

The 2017 FIBA Melanesia Cup saw hosts Papua New Guinea win the inaugural men's and women's titles.

Papua New Guinea were joined by Fiji and New Caledonia in qualifying for the Pacific Games in Apia in Samoa, with three places awarded at the tournament.

Papua New Guinea missed out on a medal in the men’s event at Apia 2019 when they were beaten 72-49 in the third-place playoff against Fiji in a tournament won by Guam.

Papua New Guinea's men came fourth at the 2019 Pacific Games ©FIBA
Papua New Guinea's men came fourth at the 2019 Pacific Games ©FIBA

The women finished bottom of their group, losing all three matches as American Samoa claimed the gold medal.

Papua New Guinea have never won the men's basketball tournament at the Pacific Games.

Their best performance was a silver at Port Moresby in 1969.

The women earned the gold medal at Port Moresby in 1991.

Maha Lelai hopes to make the sport semi-professional in Papua New Guinea to improve standards.

"Not everyone will succeed in education so semi-professional [basketball] will provide an alternate opportunity for young basketball players to earn some income," she told the Post Courier. 

"Semi-professional makes it easy for the selection of our representative teams as well."