Notes, quotes, photos: Dominican Republic National Team

Notes and quotes and photo gallery from a press conference and player interviews from the Dominican National Team.

  • The only UK logos in sight are the ones on the trash cans in the media room. Instead, it’s a blue background and plenty of Dominican Republic logos.
  • John Calipari talked about how the Dominican team has a chance to make history. “This team, two years ago, did well but quite not well enough,” Calipari said. “We’re close, but we’re still underdogs. Because we’ve never been to the Olympics.”
  • Joe B. Hall came into the press conference about halfway through and took a seat over on the side. “Do I have to run stairs because I’m late?” Hall asked Calipari.
  • Calipari said one of the big reasons he took the job was because he saw an opportunity to change the culture in the Dominican Republic. Baseball has always been the dominant sport. Calipari wants to show the nation’s youth that basketball can be another path to college and an education. “Although the NCAA would never believe that’s his reason,” assistant coach Del Harris said. “They’ll think there’s so many
  • Former Louisville players Francisco Garcia and Edgar Sosa and former Florida player Al Horford all said they never would have imagined they would one day be training to play for their national team in UK facilities. (Although, facilities that are “NBA caliber,” as Charlie Villanueva said.) Sosa said a couple team managers have come up to him in the past couple days and brought up Sosa’s game-winning shot against UK from a few years ago.
  • Many of the Dominican players expressed excitement about playing in the Aug. 15 exhibition game against the former UK players. Some have teammates (Villanueva and Tayshaun Prince, Garcia and DeMarcus Cousins), but more importantly, this game will be a key tune-up as they prepare for upcoming tournaments. It may only be an exhibition, but the Dominican team will be taking it seriously.
  • Eloy Vargas is working with the Dominican team. Del Harris said one of Vargas’ best abilities is being able to run the floor, which may sound basic but is vital for players in the “7-foot stratosphere.” Vargas said he’s looking at Josh Harrellson as an example of what type of improvement he can make as he heads into his senior season.
  • Calipari said this experience will make him a better coach. He said he sat at Dunkin Donuts and talked basketball with Harris, and he will get coach a wider variety of players and coach against a variety of systems. He’s teaching the Dominican a crash course in the Dribble Drive. He’s using much of the same method he uses to coach UK players in it, except in a compressed format due to time constraints.