Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana
The official story attributes the introduction of basketball in the Dominican Republic to a Puerto Rican, Alfonso “Filo” Paniagua, in 1927. An enthusiastic athlete in his student years, he obtained residence in the country and set about popularizing the sport. He created two teams, the Ases and the Hindú.
Decades later, the sports link between Dominicans and Puerto Ricans allowed basketball to improve in the country by integrating youth of varying ages, from the neighborhoods of the capital and the interior of the country, into organized practice of the game.
Years later, a generation of Dominicans was ready to face daunting challenges from the two countries with the greatest traditions in the sport of basketball: Cuba and Puerto Rico.
The history of the Federación Dominicana de Baloncesto, the body that rules the practice of the sport in the country, states that various cities dispute the honor of hosting the first basketball game in the country.
One version says that the first game was held the night of May 29, 1915 in the recreation center of the city of Santiago de los Caballeros. El Diario, a newspaper of the day, mentions the game, according to the Federación. The Azules and the Colorados faced each other that night.
The paper did not refer to the winner of the game, but it did state that there was a dance for the players after the game ended.
From then on, with highs and lows, the development of basketball has offered the country multiple regional and continental triumphs and has also allowed youth that have risen to great heights in the country to be placed in professional competitions in the United States.
In 1977, Panama hosted Centrobasket and the Dominican mens team won the gold medal for the first time in its history. Aldo Leschorn, Francisco Prats and Vinicio Muñoz are some of the spectacular players that obtained the win.
In 1978, the Dominican team took home the bronze medal from the Central American and Caribbean Sporting Games, held in Colombia.
In the following years, the streak did not continue, though the country’s passion for the discipline carried on.
The night of August 26, 1988, Alfred “Tito” Horford achieved the first and the only triple-double recorded in the history of national basketball after making 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a triumph over the Pueblo Nuevo team of Santiago.
“After the national team’s absence from the medal platform in regional championships for 17 years (1978-1995), the new generation has obtained recognition in all regional competitions except for Centrobasket 2001, which demonstrates advances attained in the discipline of basketball.” (Diario Libre, January 2002)
In 2002, the Dominican team won fifth place in the Premundial de Basket Juvenil, a regional basketball competition for youth, held in Uruguay.
Also in 2002, the celebration of the Torneo de Baloncesto Superior del Distrito Nacional, was reinitiated, as it was suspended in 2001 after incidents on the grounds of the game and disputes between the organizers of the competitions halted the tournament, which for more than 20 years had been a strong motive for basketball in the Dominican capital.
In the interior of the country, the basketball tradition grew without limits: tournaments by zone were one of the principal sources of entertainment for the youth of the municipalities of the country.
The international development of local basketball became clear, due to clashes in the realm of the regulatory entities of the sport.
Hugo Cabrera was the first Dominican to practice in the NBA when in 1976, the Milwaukee Bucks chose him in the tenth round of the draft from the University of East Texas, but he did not make the team. In 1984, the San Antonion Spurs chose Frank Rodríguez (University of New Mexico) in the tenth round, but he did not make the team.
In 1988, the Bucks chose Tito Horford (University of Miami) in the second round and he became the first Dominican to play in the NBA. In the same year, Dallas chose José “Grillo” Vargas (Louisiana State), but he opted to go to Europe.
Other Dominicans that have played in the NBA include Jaime Petterson (2001) and Ricky Greer (2002).
In February 2003, the Listín Diario affirmed “For the first time in history, there are three Dominicans playing on the basketball team of a top university in the United States: Eulis Baez, Junior Matías and Carlos Morbán, members of the Florida International team, which participates in the NCAA tournament.
The international brilliance of the local basketball players was highlighted in the Hoy newspaper in 2003, when it mentioned “Luis Flores, who plays for Maniatan College and is the best scorer in the NCAA, while Francisco García is the star of the University of Louisville. Charlie Villanueva also stands out at the University of Connecticut.
October 25, 2004, the Diario Libre affirmed, “With the stats of Luis Felipe López for the Dallas Mavericks, the Dominican Republic for the first time has two basketball players in the NBA. López, who came out of St. John’s University in 1998, returns to the courts after two years of absence due to a tear in his left knee. He joins Luis Flores, who is fighting to become the third guard of the Golden State Warriors for Dominican representation in the prestigious league.
June 25, 2005, the Dominicans Charlie Villanueva, the star of the University of Connecticut, and Francisco Garcia, from the University of Louisville, again made history after being selected in the first round of the NBA draft. Villanueva was selected as number seven for the Toronto Raptors while García was chosen as number 23 for the Sacramento Kings.
In August 2005, the Hoy newspaper stated: Eighteen players (including a woman) and two managers of Dominican operations will invade NCAA basketball for its next season, whose official start date is this Thursday in the United States.
In total, six played for the first time at that level, marking a milestone in the history of Dominican basketball.
The Dominican Republic was the site of the Pre Mundial de Balocesto 2005, in which the Dominican team won sixth place. Brazil won first place.
The Pabellón de la Fama del Deporte Dominicano, the body that recognizes the immortality of athletes of national or international success, both in the popular and professional camps, has 21 members in its basketball gallery.
Federico Horacio Henríquez (Gugú) entered the gallery in 1967. Ignacio Guerra Abreu (1968); Manuel Lugo Barinas (Varilla) (1999); Rafael Espada (1975); Máximo Bernard Vásquez (1976); Bienvenida Socías (1977); Felipe Maduro (1979); Oscar Gobaria (1980); Antonio Trueba (1981) and Faisal Abel (1984) followed him, in addition to Mario Espinola (1985), Rafael Uribe (1989); Julio Mon Nadal (1990); Piedad Pichardo (1991); José Ernesto Chapuseaux (Negrito-1992); Frank Krawinkel (1994); Eduardo Gómez (1995); Mayra Paulino (1996); Hugo Cabrera (1998); Nilcia Reyes (2000) and Silvia Espinal (2001); Miguel “Pepe” Rozón (2004) and Altagracia Zapata (2004).
Data supplied by the Federación Dominicana de Baloncesto and periodical archives.