DOM - Centrobasket a testing ground for Dominicans
TEPIC (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - In a month, the Dominican Republic will take part in the most important hoops tournament in their history, the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
Before then, however, all eyes in Santo Domingo and the rest of the Caribbean nation will be on the city of Tepic in Nayarit, Mexico, the home of this year's Centrobasket (1-7 August).
The Dominicans, Centrobasket champions in 2012, will be looking to claim one of the four qualifying spots for the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.
The competition in Mexico will also serve as a testing ground for players looking to earn places in the World Cup squad.
Jose "Maita" Mercedes, an assistant to national team coach Orlando Antigua, is to lead the Dominicans in Tepic and has already settled on his 12 players.
Juan Coronado, Manuel Fortuna, James Maye, Edward Santana and Eloy Vargas are likely to be his starting five, with the remainder of the squad consisting of Kelving Pena, Adris De Leon, Victor Liz, Gerardo Suero, Orlando Sanchez, Ronald Roberts and Manuel Guzman.
Vargas, a member of the team that finished fourth at last year's FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela, has been battling problems with both knees in the build-up to the tournament so he may come off the bench or even sit out a game or two.
"Maita" has liked what he has seen from the players so far, including small forward Adris.
"I have remained impressed by the work of Adris," he said.
"He has been formidable and has understood his role.
"We are hoping that he is able to help us."
Just as the Centrobasket tips off, Antigua will gather with some of his more senior players in Tampa, Florida to launch the preparations for their Spain 2014 campaign in Bilbao, where the Dominicans will square off against Ukraine, the United States, Turkey, New Zealand and Finland in Group C.
James Feldeine, Eulis Baez, Jack Michael Martinez, Francisco Garcia and Ronald Ramon are among those who are near certainties to be in the World Cup squad and will be in Tampa on 1 August with Antigua.
Among the friendly opponents for the Dominican Republic in the preparations will be Group C rivals USA.
The teams will square off at Madison Square Garden in New York City on 20 August.