FIBA World Cup

Boosted by Towns, Dominican Republic poses FIBA World Cup threat vs Gilas Pilipinas

Delfin Dioquino

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Boosted by Towns, Dominican Republic poses FIBA World Cup threat vs Gilas Pilipinas

STAR. Karl-Anthony Towns in action for Dominican Republic during a tune-up game against Canada ahead of the FIBA World Cup.

Seleccion de Baloncesto de la República Dominicana Twitter page

Bolstered by Minnesota Timberwolves ace Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominican Republic eyes its best FIBA World Cup campaign

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas will have its mettle tested from the get-go as it opens its FIBA World Cup bid against Dominican Republic at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan on August 25.

Beefed up by Minnesota Timberwolves ace Karl-Anthony Towns, the Dominicans are eyeing their best campaign after finishing at 12th (1978), 13th (2014), and 16th (2019) in their only three other World Cup appearances.

Always reaching the second round since its World Cup return in 2014, Dominican Republic wants nothing short of that in this edition.

Players to watch

Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns needs no introduction. (READ: Focus on Dominican Republic as Gilas Pilipinas braces for Karl-Anthony Towns)

A two-time All-NBA Third Team member and a three-time All-Star, Towns is hands down one of the best players who will see action in the World Cup.

The seven-foot big man owns career averages of 23 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks in eight seasons with the Timberwolves.

A formidable inside force, Towns can also make it rain from deep, having won the NBA Three-Point Contest last year, beating the likes of top gunners Trae Young, Luke Kennard, Patty Mills, and CJ McCollum.

Expect Towns to hold nothing back in the World Cup, especially since it will be the first time he will represent Dominican Republic in a decade.

Victor Liz

Liz has been a fixture in the Dominican Republic national team for over a decade now.

This edition will be his third World Cup stint, with the 6-foot-1 guard also representing his country in 2014 in Spain and in 2019 in China.

Although already 37 years old, Liz remains one of the top Dominican players.

Liz led Dominican Republic in scoring in the Americas Qualifiers with an average of 15.7 points in 10 games on top of 4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2 steals.

His performance in the last World Cup should make Liz a concern for the Philippines as he normed a team-best 13 points with 2.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.4 steals to power Dominican Republic to a 16th-place finish.

Angel Delgado

The Dominicans boast of a fearsome frontcourt as Towns teams up with Delgado.

A stocky 6-foot-10 big man, Delgado impressed for Dominican Republic in the Americas Qualifiers after averaging a double-double of 10.5 points and 11.1 rebounds on top of 2 assists and 1 block in 10 games.

Crashing the boards is one of the strongest suits of Delgado, who emerged as the rebounding leader in the Liga ACB, the highest basketball division in Spain, and in the FIBA AmeriCup last year.

Delgado also has NBA experience as he suited up for the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2018-19 season.

His other accolades include winning the NBA G League Rookie of the Year and earning a spot in the All-NBA G League First Team in 2019.

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Road to the World Cup

Dominican Republic reached the World Cup for the third straight time as one of the seven teams which advanced through the Americas Qualifiers.

Compiling a 9-3 record, the Dominicans caught the World Cup bus at the expense of powerhouse Argentina, which missed the global hoops showpiece for the first time since 1982.

Argentina – the runner-up in the last World Cup – enjoyed a lead as big as 17 points only to witness Dominican Republic storm back and hack out a 79-75 win in their final Americas Qualifiers game.

The Dominicans completed their two-game sweep of the Argentinians as they lost only to Canada and Venuezuela, the two other teams that qualified for the World Cup from their group.

Ranked No. 23 in the world, Dominican Republic is the second-highest ranked team in Group A, behind only No. 10 Italy and ahead of No. 40 Philippines and No. 41 Angola.

History with Gilas Pilipinas

With Towns on board, Dominican Republic looks to reassert its mastery over Gilas Pilipinas as they cross paths again two years since their last duel.

The Dominicans ripped the Filipinos to shreds in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July 2021, cruising to a 94-67 rout.

Down by as many as 8 points, Dominican Republic turned the tide in the last two quarters behind Liz and Gelvis Solano en route to the 27-point blowout.

Liz torched the Philippines with 23 points on a sizzling 5-of-6 clip from deep, while Solano – who is also set to don the Dominicans’ colors in the upcoming World Cup – produced 21 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals.

The rematch, though, could have a different story.

While Dominican Republic has Towns, Gilas Pilipinas will be led by Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, who put up career-high averages of 20.8 points, 4.4 assists, and 4 rebounds in the previous NBA season.

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.