Chris Duarte: ''I want to be at the World Cup''
INDIANAPOLIS (USA) – Chris Duarte admits being nearly overwhelmed with emotion when he made his debut with the Dominican Republic last summer in the Americas Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. And now he wants more!
"The day I was presented at home with the team, I almost cried," he told FIBA. "It's something I can't explain. Seeing the fans applauding, shouting my name, the pride of being there did not fit in my chest.
"It was fulfilling a childhood dream. Once I had tried the national team and they cut me, so it was something that I had on my list."
In a 70-61 triumph over Panama, Duarte scored 11 points but had a difficult game overall, missing all eight of his attempts from long range and sinking just five of nine shots from the charity stripe. He also turned the ball over seven times.
While he still made some mistakes and made just one of seven shots from deep against Venezuela in the next game, Duarte made a positive impact in a 76-72 win for the Dominican Republic. He was five of 10 inside the arc and also sank all seven of his attempts from the free-throw line.
Overall, he averaged 15.5 points, 2.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Most important for him, and the Dominican Republic, was that he played, and contributed to two wins that could end up helping the country qualify for the World Cup.
The 25-year-old shooting guard, who in his first season in the NBA averaged 13.0 points in 28 minutes per game, making 37 percent from three-point range in 55 games (39 starts), loved every minute of playing with the Dominican team, even if there were some differences to suiting up for the Pacers.
"EVERY POSSESSION COUNTS, IT'S SOMETHING IMPRESSIVE."
"FIBA's game is more physical, every two movements are two punches that they give you," he said, laughing .
"But it has to do with what I said before, when everyone is with their team, they go out to play with their heart, nobody wants to lose. Every possession counts, it's something impressive. It's different from the NBA, it's slower, more physical, there's less space. You must move the ball more and play more together."
Due to his commitments in the NBA, Duarte could not play in Quisqueya's (Quisqueya means "Madre de todas las tierras" or "Mother of all lands") squad in the previous window in November and he will not be available in the last one in February either.
Duarte (dunking above) said: "I loved the aggressiveness of the team and the pride with which we play"
However, he believes his teammates will qualify for the World Cup, which will be held later this year in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
"The team plays very hard and the guys have done great things without NBA players (Karl Anthony Towns and Al Horford)," he said. "I know they have the ability, the talent and they play with their heart. I fully trust them. I know they will qualify for the World Cup."
And if they qualify, Duarte wants to be with them at FIBA's flagship event.
"I want to be at the World Cup," he said. "I really liked the experience. I loved the aggressiveness of the team and the pride with which we play. Another thing that left me very pleased is the great brotherhood in the team. Everyone cares about each other. We shared a lot, we talked a lot."
Duarte, who raised plenty of eyebrows during his time at the University of Oregon before turning pro, wants to be an example for others to follow.
"I want to do my best in the NBA to continue opening doors for the latino players, just as (Argentina's) Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola did at the time," he said. "That is my goal right now, that Latinos and Dominicans feel proud."
While he needs to concentrate on the tasks at hand with Indiana and trying to help the Pacers, Duarte nevertheless has one eye on the Dominican Republic.
"The experience with the national team made me feel very proud," he said. "Being with my country, my colleagues and compatriots was something that I loved. I'm crazy to be back there."