Dominican Republic’s current national basketball team may be the best squad the small island nation has ever fielded.
With three current NBA players in Al Horford, Francisco García, naturalized Charlie Villanueva, and former NBA player Luis Flores, the Dominican Republic national team looks to improve on their third place finish in the 2008 Centrobasket and sixth place in the 2005 FIBA Americas Championship.
And because of expectations, they’re not just looking to improve; the Dominican Republic is targeting gold.
NBA Players place pressure, expectations
Charlie Villanueva was born in the United States to Dominican parents.
“I already have my dual citizenship. I am waiting for the passport. I am excited to play for the Dominican Republic, I am happy.” said Villanueva. “This will be the first year that Francisco García, Al Horford and I will play together.”
“I was born in the United States but my origins are here and I feel Dominican.” added Villanueva.
But DR veteran Luis Flores warned that just because the team has NBA-experienced players, it doesn’t equate to on-court success. “The fact that we have four NBA players… doesn’t guarantee any victories,” Flores said, “(finding the right) chemistry will give us the positive results.”
So far the chemistry has been great for the team from the Caribbean. The Dominicans have swept Puerto Rico in two warm up games; led by their NBA players. Garcia was the leading scorer in both games for DR with 20.5 points, followed by Villanueva (15.5) and Horford (14.5).
In addition to Flores, Garcia, Horford, and Villanueva, the roster includes Franklin Western, Kelvin Peña, Carlos Morbán, Jack Michael Martínez, and John García. The team is coached by Puerto Rican Julio Toro.
The Dominican Republic is in the very tough Group B of the FIBA Americas Championship. Along with perennial powerhouse Argentina, the group also has a talented Brazil squad, Cuba and tough Venezuela. Group A features teams from Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Uruguay.
“It is going to be a very competitive tournament.” said Horford, who was born in Puerto Plata and the son of former NBA player Tito Horford. “I have all the desire in the World to represent (the Dominican Republic).”
The FIBA Americas Championship will be played from August 26th to September 6th, played at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico.