FORMER NBA Sixth “Man of the Year” winner Jordan Clarkson and the near-fanatical home crowd are two of the major concerns of the Dominican Republic heading into their all-important showdown against host Philippines in the FIBA World Cup 2023 at the Philippine Arena.
Dominican Republic coach Nestor Garcia and veteran Eloy Garcia said Clarkson, the 6-5 Filipino-American guard of the Utah Jazz, will be the focus of attention during their 8 p.m. match in Group A.
“We all know Clarkson is a very good player. He’s really, really dangerous. He produced a lot of good things, so we have to be really ready for him,” said Garcia during the team’s introductory press conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Vargas echoed Garcia’s observation, saying he played with Clarkson for the LA D-Fenders in the G-League in 2014.
“Me and Jordan played together back in 2014 for the Lakers in the G-League, so we really know each other. I know him very well,” said Vargas , a 6-10 center who played college ball at the University of Kentucky in 2012.
“I know he’s a good shooter, very athletic and fast. But I’m confident our guys can do a good job on him.” added Vargas, who also played for the New York Knicks in the 2013 NBA Summer League.
Both Garcia and Vargas stressed the Karl Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic is also prepared for the pro-Filipino crowd.
“I know this country loves basketball and they support the national team a lot. But everything is about concentration. We are focused, because when you are focused, you can win anywhere,” said Garcia.
“For us, it’s an extra motivation to play with the crowd, against a lot of fans, against a good team.”
Vargas said he is very happy to represent his country in the World Cup.
“Well, where we come from, we come from nothing. We just play basketball with freinds. So it’s great for us to come here and represent our country in front of thousands of people,” explained Vargas.
The Philippines and Dominican Republic are bunched with world No. 10 Italy and world No. 42 Angola in Group A.
The main goal is to win two of three games in the first round to advance to the second round.
If they both make it to the second round, the teams will join the top two qualifiers from Group B to dispute a seat to the quarterfinals.
Eliminated teams will be relegated to the 17th to 32nd classification phase.
The FIBA World Cup 2023, which is also being co-hosted by Japan and Indonesia, will run from August 25-Sept 10.
It will also award Paris Olympic seats to the two teams of the Americas and Europe and the No. 1 finisher of Asia Africa and Oceania.
Host France has already been seeded to the Games.
Four more slots to Paris. will be at stake in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.