FIBA 2023 World Cup: Analysing The Dominican Republic Roster

With the 19th edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup beginning on August 25th, there follows a look at the rosters for each of the 32 teams taking part. This instalment looks at the team from the Dominican Republic, who are taking part in their fourth ever World Cup, and their third in a row.

Gelvis Solano

  • PG – 6’1 – Born 1st June 1994
  • Aguada, Uruguay

2022/23 was a busy one for Solano, who put in the mileage. After finishing up the 2022 LNB season, he then played for Canadian team the Hamilton Honey Badgers in the BCL Americans, then went to Uruguay for a couple of months to play for Aguada, then returned to the LNB for another season with Reales, all the while interspersing a heavy diet of national team appearances. In 27 LNB games, Solano averaged 17.3 points, 6.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, being probably the best domestic lead guard in the competition, hence his inclusion here. A very good athlete who plays above the rim much more than most 6’1 guys, Solano has some shake in his dribble to go with that, and plenty of gumption. He is small, but he plays big, with a dynamicism and flair for the spectacular that plays well in any league. Which is why he has played in so many of them.

Jean Montero

  • PG – 6’3 – Born 3rd July 2003
  • Real Betis, Spain

Montero was given a full profile in this space a few months ago on account of his rapid rise to stardom in Spain, and suffice it to say, he is the next great Dominican Republic backcourt prospect. He has only just turned 20, yet he has more experience at the highest levels than anyone else in this backcourt, and will be the leader of the team for the next decade to come.

Andrés Feliz

  • PG/SG – 6’0 – Born 15th July 1997
  • Joventut Badalona, Spain

Graduating from Illinois in 2020 after working his way up from Northwest Florida State College, Feliz has been with Joventut, starting out with their LEB Silver affiliate Prat before working his way up to the main team. And from the bench of the ACB roster, Feliz has further worked his way into the starting line-up and a double-digit scoring output. Averaging 11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in only 22.2 minutes per game, Feliz has kept levelling up year on year, thriving now in the world’s second-best league, when you would normally think that his small size and unexceptional athletic profile would stop him. A competitor, hustler and improved shooter, Feliz’s high motor, competitive defence, decent first step and heavy diet of runners and bankers make for a potent two-way combination that is always attacking. You would like to see more passing on the move and less predetermined decisions, but considering he keeps on developing year on year, maybe you soon will.

Victor Liz

  • SG – 6’3 – Born 12th May 1986
  • Capitanes de Arecibo, Puerto Rico

In possibly his last big international tournament for his country, the stalwart Liz is the veteran companion to the feisty and speedy young backcourt. That was him once upon a time, and the ageing process is nobody’s friend. Nevertheless, Liz is ageing well, averaging 12.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 35 games of Puerto Rican BSN play for the Capitanes de Arecibo between March and June, a very nice tune-up for this tournament. Liz lacks the ideal size for a shooting guard, but his quickness, instincts, runners, decent shooting and ability to get his own either in isolation or within the flow means he will get his double-figures every night somehow. And he still runs well for a senior, too.

Rigoberto Mendoza

  • SG – 6’3 – Born 3rd July 1992
  • Capitanes de Ciudad Mexico, Mexico/G-League

Having the Capitanes play in the G-League has meant some players joining who would likely never otherwise have been near it, and Mendoza is one of them. The veteran guard nevertheless played well in it last season, averaging 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals compared to only 1.7 turnovers per game in regular season play, while also shooting a .603 true shooting percentage. All very nice, and a testament to his experienced, disciplined and potent style. A good shooter from all areas and a committed defender, the man nicknamed “El Vikingo” [don’t know why] has played everywhere, from Israel and the Balkans to Nicaragua and Mexico. If he was a bit bigger, perhaps he would have played at the very top level too.

Lester Quinones

  • SG – 6’4 – Born 16th November 2000
  • Golden State Warriors, NBA

Quite possibly aided by being James Wiseman’s room mate in college – at the start of Lester’s time there, at least, Wiseman was still a part of their plans – Quinones spent his first pro season out of Memphis with the Golden State Warriors organisation in various capacities. It began with a summer league invitation, swiftly progressing onto a two-way contract, waived off it before the season started, assigned to the G-League affiliate Santa Cruz, called up in March to a 10-day deal, latterly signed to another two-way contract, and then re-signed to a third two-way this summer. Fair to say they see something in him. Quinones responded with G-League averages of 21.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, alongside the same pesky defence he made a name for himself with at the University of Memphis.

A three-and-D player at the off-guard spot, Quinones pairs his quickness of foot with a very quick release on his high-volume jumper. If he improves his decision-making and tightness of ball-handling, he could win that elusive full NBA contract – until then, he has the opportunity to pair up with the other aforementioned dynamic Dominican Republic guards and run bigger opponents off the floor.

Gerardo Suero

  • SG/SF – 6’5 – Born 9th October 1989
  • Manati, Puerto Rico

For all the quality in the smaller guards, this Dominican Republic team lacks size on the wings, so in steps Suero to add a bit of it, along with plenty of experience with the national team. In domestic LNB play this season, the former Albany graduate averaged 18.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for Soles, and offers a solid off-ball game of spot-ups, drives on reversals and the like. Suero is not a big-time athlete, but he is a smart player who can also take some turns on the ball, and who puts in a committed shift defensively. Just the sort of heady wing veteran role player that a player like Montero needs.

LJ Figueroa

  • SF – 6’6 – Born 28th March 1998
  • Ratiopharm Ulm, Germany

Whereas Suero might not be a big time run-and-jump athlete, Figueroa is, as evidenced by his career stops to date. Two years at St. John’s were followed by one at Oregon, then consecutive NBA summer league appearances, interspersed with the best part of two seasons in the G-League and a run in Puerto Rico. A player with good burst despite a stout-looking build, Figueroa mixes in some cuts with his usual diet of spot-ups and transition lane running, and more importantly, he plays aggressive and instinctive defence. He raises the floor of this team at the forward spots in a way that no one else here can.

Antonio Pena

  • PF/C – 6’8 – Born 20th June 1986
  • Brillantes del Zulia, Venezuela

Pena – at one time a regular for Villanova – has been all over the Americas in a 12-year professional career, returning to his home side of the Atlantic in 2015 after three years in Spain and one in Germany and never leaving it again since He knows what he does, and he knows where he likes to do it. What he does is set screens, hit both mid- and long-range jumpers, roll, spot, take charges, throw extra passes and battle on the glass. He is not a speedster, and the defensive range is much more limited than the offensive range, but he has thousands and thousands of reps across hundreds and hundreds of pro games and subsequently knows his role within them. He always did, even when he was a Wildcat.

Ángel Delgado

  • C – 6’10 – Born 20th November 1994
  • Pınar Karşıyaka, Turkey

After beginning his professional career on a two-way contract with the L.A. Clippers, Delgado has been on a high-level European career over the last four years, as well he should. His pure paint game does not fit the modern NBA game too well, yet it works in Europe, as evidenced by the 11.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game he averaged for Pinar Karsiyaka in Turkish league player last season. One of the world’s best rebounders and a useful if not particularly smooth offensive presence, Delgado is a force on both ends in whichever spot on the court he happens to be standing in. And while he does not cover ground or offer a great range on either end, you can work with a reliable factor like that.

Eloy Vargas

  • C – 6’11 – Born 30th December 1988
  • Aguada, Uruguay

Kentucky graduate Vargas is eleven years into a professional career that has seen him play on every side of every ocean, and after a full 2022/23 season in Uruguay with Aguada (16.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game), he did a summer stint in Venezuela’s SPB league with Trotamundos de Carabobo (9.2/7.1/0.5/0.5). A very experienced player, he is also a hardy one, rarely missing any game time or switching off on any possession.

Eschewing the modern style of seeking to stretch the floor, Vargas leaves the paint only to screen or take an elbow touch, an area from which he has consistently improved as a driver/passer. He bangs on the glass, takes contact, wins possessions, and contests inside the lane with second efforts and good timing rather than any great burst or explosion. Vargas may lack for top-tier size and athletic prowess, yet across the rest of the Americas – where he has played the bulk of his pro career – he has been a disruptive force.

Karl-Anthony Towns

  • C – 7’0 – Born 15th November 1995
  • Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA

Although 2022/23 was far from Towns’s best season in the NBA, he remains by far and away the Dominican Republic’s marquee talent, and the fulcrum onto which all their hopes of a win or two are pinned.

Towns missed the majority of the season through injury, appearing in only 29 games, and in the time he did manage, the (entirely predictable) problem of pairing him with the paint-bound Rudy Gobert reared its head. Gobert’s defensive dominance in the lane offset the negative effects of having Towns guard the perimeter more often, but on the offensive end, Chris Finch’s coaching staff could not make it work optimally.

With the national team, though, everything is built around Towns. Aside from any minutes he plays with Delgado or Vargas, the lane is his to defend, and he will be sought every trip down. And perhaps this opportunity, combined with good health, can kick-start a strong comeback season for him.

Group A: Italy, Angola, Philippines, Dominican Republic

Group B: China, Serbia, Puerto Rico, South Sudan

Group C: USA, Greece, Jordan, New Zealand

Group D: Egypt, Mexico, Lithuania, Montenegro

Group E: Germany, Finland, Australia, Japan

Group F: Slovenia, Cape Verde, Georgia, Venezuela

Group G: Iran, Spain, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire

Group H: Canada, Latvia, France, Lebanon

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