25 August, 2023
10 September
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Top five reasons Dominican Republic are a medal contender

MANILA (Philippines) - Not many observers had Dominican Republic rolling through Group A of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 with a perfect 3-0 record. But the Caribbean nation showed in the First Round why they are a medal contender when it's all said and done.

Here are five reasons why the FIBA Americas side cannot be taken lightly and actually it would not be a surprise if they leave Philippines with hardware in their luggage.

Reason No. 1 - Coach Che Garcia

Nestor 'Che' Garcia has built up a legacy of getting the best out of his players and achieving things few think were possible - see Venezuela beating Canada in the FIBA AmeriCup 2015 Semi-Finals, win the event and then reach the 2016 Olympics. Or the Dominicans upsetting Germany in the First Round of the 2019 World Cup. Or lately, witnessing this team qualify for the World Cup 2023 by defeating Argentina at home on the last day of the Americas Qualifiers.

Star Karl-Anthony Towns gushed about Garcia as one of the best coaches in the world at the post-game press conference following the team's win over Angola - also because of his demeanour with his players.

"Not only are (good coaches) amazing with Xs and Os and they get the best out of their team and their players but they are someone who all the players levitate towards off the court. When we are not on the court we all want to hang out with coach. We all want to get to talk to him. We all want to laugh with him. We all want to joke with him. We all want to talk basketball with him. We all want to not talk basketball with him. And that is what makes him so special. He's not just a coach in basketball but he's a coach in life."

Reason No. 2 - Karl-Anthony Towns

Everyone knows what Towns can do on the court - someone who can play inside and outside and help a team in so many ways - but he is humble on and off the court and values the chance to play for the country of his mother.

To get an idea of how much he means to the team, this was Coach Garcia's reaction when Towns said he was coming to the World Cup: "I put my hands to the sky and said thank god. It's a blessing for us. He's at another level as a player. Personally I never imagined how humble he is. It's unbelievable.” And the coach later said: "He is the leader. For me he's the best player of the tournament. Also because of the way he has acted with the team."

Towns also showed in the game against Angola that he can be a leader from the bench as he was saddled with foul trouble.

"I just stayed focused on the task at hand, kept leading and cheering as hard as I can for my teammates. If you can't be on the court to be the best player on the court why not be the best player on the bench. I wanted to be the best player on the bench. I wanted to be the best cheerleader. I wanted to be the best tactician," Towns said.

Reason No. 3 - Winning without Towns

Towns did not play in the Americas Qualifers at all and Dominican Republic registered two wins over Argentina, including a massive comeback to keep them from reaching the World Cup. The team then dealt with Towns being in foul trouble against Angola and still figured out a way to win.

"Towns got in foul trouble today but everybody knows their role. He will not be there every day and stuff like this can happen. Somebody has to step up and we did a good job when he was on the bench today," power forward Angel Delgado said.

Reason No. 4 - Quinones hasn't gotten going

Lester Quinones is known as a deadly shooter but he has not found his mark from the outside at all. After missing his first five long range attempts in his first two games, Quinones went 0-of-5 on three-pointers against Angola for a 0-of-10 showing thus far. He is too good a shooter to slump an entire tournament meaning he will break out soon - and then it's watch out for the opposition.

"Lester is our shooter. We all believe in him. Sometimes stuff happens. We just keep supporting him to keep shooting. At some point he is going to hit shots and we will still be supporting him and be happy," Solano said.

Reason No. 5 - Highly talented and motivated

The Dominicans surprised many four summers ago by knocking off Germany and reaching the Second Round. And they wowed even more in the Americas Qualifiers by defeating Argentina to reach this World Cup. Add a humble superstar like Towns and there is good reason to be high on the team.

"We have more experience in some players. We have some young players who are very good. And we improved our defense so much. At this level you have to play defense. The team is very aggressive. We improved so much compared to the China World Cup," Garcia said.

The team is also highly motivated though because few observers have picked them to do much in this tournament.

"Dominican Republic is going crazy right now. We have a special team. Everyone counted us out and didn't think we could be great. But in practice with one of the best coaches in the world with Che we believed that we could do something amazing. I think the world is going to notice now," said Towns.

Add it all up and it's hard not to consider them a legit contender.