Qualified Team Focus - Dominican Republic: Can Che Garcia continue the magic
MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, presented by Wanda, will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
Here is the number 23 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, four-time World Cup participants Dominican Republic.
How did they qualify
Dominican Republic started their World Cup Americas Qualifiers after failing to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, losing to Italy in the Semi-Finals of the FIBA Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament Belgrade. Melvyn Lopez remained on as head coach for the World Cup Americas Qualifiers, but he was replaced after four windows by former Dominican coach Nestor 'Che' Garcia.
The Dominicans managed to reach the World Cup on the final game day with a second surprise of Argentina - to keep the 2019 World Cup runners-up out of the global showcase this summer.
The Dominicans hosted the bubble for the first window in November 2021, where they beat Virgin Islands 87-65 and 100-56 in Group C. Victor Liz scored 23 points in the second game and Eloy Vargas tallied 16 points and 15 rebounds.
The bubble for the February 2022 window also took place in Dominican Republic and the hosts lost to Canada 85-79 despite 29 points from Liz and a double-double from Angel Delgado (11 points and 13 rebounds). The Dominicans bounced back with a 90-65 win over Bahamas, coming back from 14 points down in the first quarter. Andres Feliz scored 25 points and Delgado had another double-double (14/16).
In the June/July 2022 window, Dominican Republic once again lost to Canada 95-75 on the road but bounced back to win 88-80 at Bahamas thanks to Liz scoring 26 points and another Delgado double-double (15/11).
The Second Round started in August 2022 with Dominican Republic beating Panama 70-61 at home in Group E with Delgado (18/11) and Vargas (12/10) both getting double-doubles.
The Dominicans could not grab a second win in the window, rallying from 20 points down before losing 76-72 at Venezuela with Liz and Chris Duarte both scoring 20 points.
The FIBA AmeriCup 2022 saw Dominican Republic lose to Brazil 80-68 in the Quarter-Finals. After that the Dominican federation decided to change the head coaching spot, bringing back Garcia, who had guided the team at the 2019 World Cup.
The Dominicans responded right away to the move in the November 2022 window, surprising Argentina 80-69 at home with Gerardo Suero scoring 20 points. The Dominicans trailed by 14 points in the second game but roared back to defeat Venezuela 72-68 as Jean Montero poured in 22 points.
That set the stage for a dramatic final window in February 2023, starting with a 93-67 win over Panama. In the final game at Argentina, the Dominicans trailed 61-44 with 12 minutes to play.
The 19-year-old Montero scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and nine in the fourth quarter of a dramatic 79-75 comeback win in front of 8,000 fans to reach the World Cup.
Best result at the World Cup
Dominican Republic have reached the World Cup for the fourth time and the third in a row. After debuting in 1978, the Caribbean nation played in 2014 and 2019, finishing 13th and 16th, respectively. Dominican Republic's top finish was 12th in 1978.
Last World Cup appearances
In their return to the World Cup after 36 years in 2014, the Dominicans beat New Zealand 76-63 and knocked off Finland 74-68 in the group stage for a 2-3 record to advance to the Round of 16. The Dominicans were defeated 71-61 by Slovenia in the Round of 16.
At China 2019, Dominican Republic beat Jordan 80-76 and then surprised Germany 70-68, which was enough to reach the Second Round, where they lost to Australia 82-76 and to Lithuania 74-55.
Players to watch
Dominican Republic has a strong core of players who carried the team to the World Cup. Andres Feliz and Eloy Vargas played all 12 games in the Americas Qualifiers with Angel Delgado, captain Victor Liz, Rigoberto Mendoza and Gelvis Solano all appearing in 10 games.
Victor Liz, Eloy Vargas and Rigoberto Mendoza
Coach Garcia can rely on that sextet but he also has some strong players surrounding that group. NBA guard Chris Duarte shined in his two games in the Qualifiers; Jean Montero showed his maturity and leadership despite being just 20 years old; and Gerardo Suero can light it up. There are also Lester Quinones and Justin Minaya, neither of whom played in the qualification.
Two big question marks which could turn Dominican Republic into a really tough challenge for any team are NBA stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Al Horford. Towns last played for Dominican Republic at the FIBA AmeriCup 2013 but he sent a very positive message in The Ringer NBA Show, saying he would like to "go play for the Dominican Republic this summer". Horford hasn’t played since the 2012 Olympic Qualifiers.
Nonetheless, both were named in the extended preliminary roster that featured 30 names, including the players noted above.
Karl-Anthony Towns at FIBA AmeriCup 2013
Qualified Team Focus series
Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike: