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Al Horford (DOM) - 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

ATLANTA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - No national team coach wants to go into battle without a player the caliber of Al Horford, but that's what Orlando Antigua had to do in his first summer at the helm of the Dominican Republic.

The rookie boss got important contributions from players like Jack Martinez and newcomer James Feldeine, and the Dominicans qualified for the  2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Martinez, who turned 32 in August, often put the squad on his broad shoulders and nearly averaged a double-double in points and rebounds.

The 2.01m power forward set the tone with a 12-point, 14-rebound effort in a tournament-opening 91-72 triumph over Argentina.

After losing their next two games, the Dominicans reeled off five consecutive victories to seal a top-four position needed to reach next year's tournament in Spain.

Horford, a 27-year-old veteran center of the Atlanta Hawks who is averaging 17.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks so far in the 2013-14 NBA season, plans on being with the squad in 2014.

"God willing," he said, "I will represent the country at the World Cup.

"It's only a question of me being healthy.

"I feel very proud to represent my country."

Horford rooted for the team from afar last summer, keeping tabs on the squad as Martinez and Co ground out wins at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship in the Poliedro arena in Caracas, Venezuela.

"I congratulate all of those guys that fought hard to qualify for the World Cup," Horford said.

"They did a great job, it was outstanding."

The last time a Dominican side played in FIBA's flagship event was in 1978, when it competed at the event in the Philippines.

The Dominican Republic are going to have a busy year because not only do they have a spot in the World Cup, which gets underway 30 August, but also a slot in the Centrobasket in Mexico which tips off 15 July.

The country could decide to send some or all of the members of the senior squad to the first tournament, or sent a 'B' team.


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