Francisco Garcia

John Calipari’s Dominican National Team one win away from Olympics

2 Comments

John Calipari has a chance to add another notch to his belt in 2012.

He already won a national championship and saw six of his players get selected in the NBA draft, but he has been focused on Olympic qualifying, where he has the Dominican National Basketball Team one win away from its first ever berth in the Olympics.

The Dominican Republic erased a 20-point first-half deficit to beat Macedonia, 86-76, in the Olympic qualifying quarterfinal Friday night.

Calipari’s team now faces the winner of the last quarterfinal game, Lithuania, in the semifinal. Russia and Nigeria meet in the other semifinal.

A win in the semifinal or the consolation game Sunday would place the Dominican Republic in the London field.

The Dominican team features Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford, who had 14 points in the win over Macedonia, along with former Louisville guard Edgar Sosa.

Sacramento Kings guard Francisco Garcia led the way with 28 points Friday night.

Ronald Ramon, formerly of the University of Pittsburgh, added 13 points.

Calipari and the Dominican National Team grabbed the headlines before the qualifying tournament after it was announced that rising high school sophomore Karl Towns would be part of 2012 roster.

Towns, rated by many as the top player in the Class of 2015, has played sparingly in this tournament, but the team as a whole is proving that they might have what it takes to punch a ticket to London.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Is Karl Towns going to get playing time for the Dominican Team?

Leave a comment

Late in May, we wrote about John Calipari’s decision to include Karl Towns on the Dominican National Team, which Cal is coaching during Olympic qualifying.

For those that are unaware, Towns is currently the most highly-regarded recruit in the Class of 2015 (kids that will be high school sophomores in the fall) and, quite obviously, one of Kentucky’ main targets.

It’s genius, really. Cal will be able to coach Towns throughout qualifying, which is a pretty good way to build a relationship with him. Advantage: Calipari.

The thinking was that this would be a great opportunity for Towns as well, because he would get a chance to battle with current NBA players like Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva. The latter is no longer true, however, as Villanueva was cut from the team by Calipari today for being out of shape:

“Charlie was not in good form when we saw him,” Calipari said to Deportes en la Z.

“He was overweight, and unfortunately, we could not slow down the entire team and it was a decision taken collectively.

“Last year, Charlie behaved really well with us and his only problem was his weight.

“An NBA player like him deserves respect and for respect, we have taken this decision.

“I enjoyed coaching him a lot.

“He is a great player.”

The Dominican team still has quite a bit of size — Horford is playing, as will Spanish League members Eulis Baez and Josh Asselin and current Sacramento King Francisco Garcia.

But without Villanueva on the roster, will this open up minutes for Towns to see some action? And if this kid, as a sophomore-to-be, can compete with professionals at the highest level of international play, what does it say about his potential three years down the road?

Taking over the Dominican National Team is looking like a great decision by Calipari.

Photo via NJ.com.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.