Kentucky pledge Karl Towns Jr. has qualified for the World Cup with the Dominican Republic team, while Canadians Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett could get shut out.
The 7-foot-1 Towns Jr. out of St. Joe’s-Metuchen went scoreless Sunday but the DR qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Championships in Spain with an 86-78 victory over Uruguay at the 2013 FIBA America Championship in Caracas, Venezuela. The Dominicans are coached by Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua.
“He is so happy to be a part of history,” Karl Towns Sr. told SNY.tv.
Towns Jr., Kentucky’s lone pledge for 2014 so far, could end up playing his idol Kevin Durant next summer in the World Cup.
“I feel good with the Dominican team,” he told ESPN.com. “The experience is going very well. I learned a lot last year and I’m putting it to use this year. I want to help the team in everything and be ready to compete.”
Meantime, Canada failed to qualify after losing Sunday to Argentina, 73-67.
The Canadians shot 39 percent in the contest. Point guard Cory Joseph led the way for his team with 19 points while Andrew Nicholson contributed 17 points.
Following the defeat, head coach Jay Triano said, “Of course this is disappointing and not the result we were looking for, but this is a valuable learning experience for a young team like ours. There wasn’t a game where we were not extremely competitive and it shows how close we are.”
He added, “This game against Argentina was tough and we were very competitive throughout. I’m proud of our players and the way they handled themselves throughout the tournament.”
Steve Nash, general manager of the senior men’s program, added: “I share with our players, coaches and staff the bitter disappointment in not qualifying for the FIBA World Cup. While we fell short of our intended goal I’m incredibly proud of the group for their hard work and growth over a short period of time. We have a very young team with little international experience and even less experience as a unit. These battles on foreign soil are invaluable to the growth and eventual success of our program. I love our program and look forward to the continued work it will take to build a winner in international basketball.”
Canada could still get one of the four wild cards to the World Championship that will be announced in December.
That leaves an open door for the possibility of Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and Wiggins, the presumed No. 1 pick in 2014 out of Kansas, to still compete in Spain.
Tony McIntyre, the CIA Bounce coach who coached both Wiggins and Bennett, previously told SNY.tv he expected both to play next year, along with his son, Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis.
“I think it’s more than likely that [Wiggins] will,” said McIntyre. “This year was just a case of him wanting to get ready for college [ at Kansas].”
He added: “This year was just a case of him wanting to get ready for college. Preparing for the NBA, I think when you’re able to be around other NBA players and go through training camp and bring your own trainer if indeed he has one by then, I think it’s a perfect situation to get ready for the NBA.”
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