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Eloy Vargas received the feed pass on the left block. His defender, and assistant with the Dominican Republic national team, pressed against him with arms stuffed inside bulky pads. Vargas made a faint attempt at faking left before spinning right. Before he could even release a baby hook, the assistant had interrupted.
“Nope,” the assitant coach said. “You gotta sell it going left harder. Come back, do it again.”
Vargas did, this time giving a heavier feign before spinning. Then, Al Horford cycled in, successfully completing the move with no trouble. Charlie Villanueva did, too.
If Eloy Vargas is going to be a part of the Dominican national team, he will have to earn it.
“I would hope he makes the team,” said John Calipari, head coach of the Dominican team. “I hope he helps us. But I’ll be honest with you, we’re going to work with him, but that’s not why I’m doing this.”
Vargas is far from a finished product. He knows that. He’s hit the weight room to lost what he calls the “baby fat” he had last year. He has to polish some moves.
Dominican assistant Del Harris said Vargas possesses two desirable traits in his ability to run the floor and catch the ball.
“It sounds simple enough, run the court and catch the ball, but when you’re 7 feet (tall), those are the basics,” Harris said. “The rest you can learn.”
For him to learn, the Dominican staff will have to teach. And if the players above Vargas – Horford and Villanueva, in particular – help him along, even better.
“He’s got a good attitude, and that’s the most important part,” Horford said. “It’s all about playing hard and buying into what coach Calipari is telling him.”
Regardless of how much Vargas contributes on a team looking to qualify for the Olympics, the experience should carry over to the UK season. Vargas said he looks at Josh Harrellson’s turnaround his senior season as an example of what can be achieved.
“If he can compete with these players – he’s going against three NBA players every day – if he can compete with those guys, he’s going to help us this year,” Calipari said.