Baseball will probably always be known as the dominant sport in the Dominican Republic, which produces major leaguers by the bunches. But there’s plenty of basketball potential in the country, too.
Charlie Villanueva points to All-Star center/forward Al Horford, No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns and himself among other NBA players with Dominican roots as proof.
“That gives kids in the Dominican Republic hope that they can make it in the NBA,” Villanueva said over the phone while attending the first Basketball Without Borders event in the Dominican Republic. “Like seven or eight years ago, there wasn’t a lot of basketball courts down here. All you saw was baseball fields. That’s starting to change.”
Villanueva was born and raised in New York City, but both his parents are from the Dominican Republic, where he typically visits at least twice a year. He started this trip in his mother’s hometown of Cabrera, where he helped refurbish a basketball court and hosted a clinic for about 45 kids.
“The fact that I was able to give back to the city my mom grew up in was tremendous,” said Villanueva, a power forward who re-signed with the Dallas Mavericks after serving as a valued sharpshooter off the bench last season.
Villanueva and Horford are among the current and former NBA players working the Basketball Without Borders camp in Santo Domingo, featuring talent from 18 North and South American countries.
“Man, there are some talented young players down here, and they come in all sizes,” said new Mavs assistant coach Melvin Hunt, who is also working the camp.
It’s the first Basketball Without Borders camp in the Dominican Republic. Villanueva is optimistic it will be the first of many.
“These kids are like sponges,” Villanueva said. “They’re soaking everything in.”
Credit: Tim MacMahon, ESPN