Dominican Republic, South Sudan bring home more than just victories     


Dominican Republic’s Karl-Anthony Towns. -MARLO CUETO/

In the din of the opposing team’s revelry, Karl-Anthony Towns found solace in the Dominican Republic’s campaign in the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

Holding back his tears while speaking to a bunch of foreign reporters, Towns, one of the few top-flight NBA stars who opted to represent his country in a tournament seen as less prestigious than the Olympic Games, said he takes pride in what his squad has been able to put together despite crashing out of quarterfinal contention.

“I think we brought a lot of happiness to a lot of families back home and I think that’s the beauty of basketball,” he said on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. “That’s what sports is about.”

“No matter what country you’re from—whether it be China, Japan, USA, Serbia, Slovenia or the Dominican Republic, we all speak one language,” he added.

“That’s the beauty [of] this sport. There are very, very few things in the world that have a universal language. Basketball is one of them.”

The Dominicans fell to the Serbians, 112-79, to miss out on a quarterfinal berth in the global showcase. The Caribbeans also failed to tab a ticket to the Paris Summer Olympics that Canada snared by dethroning Spain later that night.

But Towns insists those failures hardly diminish his team’s feat.

“We did something that everyone didn’t expect us to do. We made little boys and girls back home proud. I think we gave them a chance to see that we can be: A top team in the country. Even in the world,” he said.

“I feel this team did a lot of great things for a lot of people who need it.”

Young program

Karl-Anthony Towns Dominican Republic Fiba World Cup

Dominican Republic’s Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates after beating Angola and sweeping Group A of the Fiba World Cup. -FIBA PHOTO

Towns, a three-time NBA All-Star, feels like his team’s story is also shared by a bevy of teams that also didn’t make the final phase that gets going on Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

Easily leading that list is South Sudan, a young country whose basketball program was put together only 12 years ago but has emerged as one of the indelible stories of the tournament.

The Bright Stars, like the Dominicans, also missed out on a quarterfinal berth. But their crew—mostly comprised of players who were displaced by poverty and strife—did just enough to earn passage into Paris, which is something federation president Luol Deng said should be a source of boundless inspiration at home.

He also thinks that the team’s campaign has kicked open a lot of doors on his home soil.

“We’re gonna celebrate this and enjoy it, but [there’s] impact that this is making on our youth,” he said. “Now, we can invest more in the youth. I’m not here to just say basketball. Sports in general, but also music and art.”

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