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DOM - Dominican Republic players shake off rust as training camp commences

5. Elpidio FORTUNA (Dominican Republic.jpg
Elpidio FORTUNA (DOM). Puerto Rico v Dominican Republic. Day 8 of the 2013 FIBA Americas in Caracas, Venezuela. 6 September 2013. Second round.

SANTO DOMINGO (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - There is an unbridled enthusiasm for basketball on display in the Dominican Republic this week, with the senior national team training camp now underway in Santo Domingo.

Players have gathered with coach Jose 'Maita' Mercedes to get ready for the Centrobasket, a competition to be played in Mexico 1-7 August.

Several of the players that compete at the Centrobasket will be incorporated into the Dominican team that is to take part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup tipping off in Spain on 30 August.

Mercedes is leading the team in training now for the Centrobasket, but Orlando Antigua will eventually take the reins and prepare the squad for the World Cup, where the Dominicans are to play in Bilbao in Group C against the United States, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and New Zealand.

Elpidio Manuel Fortuna Lara, Juan Coronado and Edgar Sosa are veterans in this week's camp looking to impress and make the team.

"I'm happy," Fortuna said. "You live for this, the national team."

The 29-year-old says there are good vibes at practice.

"This is a group with great chemistry."

The 1.86m shooting guard's first summer with the Dominican senior team was 2006, when he played at the Centrobasket and the Central American and Caribbean Games for Men.

He took part in his first major tournament with the Dominicans at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship.

Fortuna was in the squad at the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament that came up one victory shy of clinching a spot in the London Games and he was part of the side that finished fourth at last summer's FIBA Americas Championship.

For him, every practice is an opportunity to prove that he is worthy of a spot in the national side.

"I give a 100 percent happy and do everything the coach tells me to do," he said.

As for Coronado and Sosa, each has played in big games for the Dominicans, too.

Both were in last year's team in Caracas, Venezuela that achieved the country's first qualification to FIBA's flagship event since 1978.

As for coach Mercedes, he seems to be pushing the right buttons in practice.

He wanted to gauge the fitness of the players this week.

"Some were a little rusty," he said of the start of training camp.

"Everyone came out a little tired. As a coaching staff, we wanted to see how well we were physically."

Mercedes says there is a lot of quality in the Dominican camp.

"These guys can run, play a game of half court and shoot from the perimeter to open up the game," he said.

When the Centrobasket is underway, Antigua will gather in Tampa, Florida, with James Feldeine, Eulis Baez, Jack Michael Martinez, Francisco Garcia and Ronald Ramon, players who are near certainties to be in the World Cup squad.