Dominican Power: A Basketball Movement

Photo courtesy of Mikey “DP” Jones.

By David Cordova

When one thinks of the Dominican Republic, one thinks of merengue, good food and baseball. It is a culture that exists like no other. Sports heroes from D.R. are Sammy Sosa, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz, all of whom are retired major league baseball players that have had long, successful careers.

But then the country has also has quite a following on the basketball scene. One of the major reasons for that was the ascension of Felipe Lopez, who moved from Santiago to the Bronx, NY in 1989 at the age of 14.

Five years later, in 1994, Lopez developed into a phenomenon around the country and in his homeland. During the CHSAA city championship at Fordham University in March of that year, there were plenty of Dominican flags being waved and musical instruments being used to honor him. When the game was over, Lopez stood on top of the rim with the flag draped over him.

From there, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated before ever playing a single game at St. John’s University in Queens, NY and then played four seasons in the NBA with three teams.

In the present day, the Dominican culture has embraced the basketball scene as there are current players in the NBA such as Karl-Anthony Towns, the 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Al Horford, a veteran player with the Boston Celtics.

However, there is one movement that transcends the Dominican culture to greater heights. That wave is called Dominican Power. Every Friday night, during the summer, this team can be seen at the Dyckman Tournament on 204th Street and Nagle Avenue in the Inwood section of Manhattan. When Dominican Power plays, it is a live atmosphere that rivals Carnaval and everyone is in a frenzy.

Dominican Power back in the day at Dyckman. (Photo courtesy of Mikey DP)

“Honestly, Dominican Power has been around for years, the only thing is that I started putting the piece to the puzzle, alongside Ralph ‘The Maniac’ and my cousin, ‘The Slasher’  you can say in the early 2000’s, but in 2004, we started getting our stamp of approval in streetball,” says Mikey “DP” Jones, head coach and co-founder.

When asked about being from D.R., he said: “Man, listen, it’s paradise. It’s the island, everything is beautiful. The culture in itself speaks for itself.”

On the basketball scene in D.R: “The basketball scene, it’s like being here in Dyckman. But supposedly I heard through the grapevine, that everything is dried out because it’s not what it used to be.  Cause I grew up watching Dominican basketball in the ’90s. One of my best players, may he rest in peace, is John ‘The Franchise’ Strickland. He played out there, they had him like if he was Jordan. He put basketball on the map out there. Even though we had our legends out there, but for a guy from New York to go out there and take over D.R. the way that he did, the words is unexplainable.”

Dominican Power with many young college stars in the roster including three Division I players here. (Photo courtesy of Mikey “DP” Jones)

The one place where many have seen Dominican Power for the last two decades, is the place where they have shone the brightest. The red carpet of steetball, as the Dyckman Tournament is always called has been the setting for many of Dominican Power’s best moments. “Dyckman is my home. Dyckman is the place that made me who I am,” says Mikey, “I don’t need to go to D.R., because the Dominican culture is here. I reminisce being here in the ’90s watching basketball.”

When Friday night comes, it resembles the setting of Friday Night Lights, when the big game is on and everybody in the neighborhood is coming out to see Dominican Power do their thing. “Man, a typical Friday night here, when Dominican Power plays, is everything,” says Mikey, “I keep bringing it back to the culture, everybody that grew up in D.R. and came over to the United States and haven’t seen each other since they crossed over, it’s like a family reunion, it’s always family-orientated. Regardless, if you’re coming from Boston, Providence or upstate, they still make it their business to come watch basketball and visit their family.”

Mikey “DP” Jones and some of the finest Dominican players after their induction to the Dyckman Tournament’s 25 best players in its history during the event’s 25th anniversary in August 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Dyckman Basketball Tournament)

Many of the players that have played for Dominican Power include players such as Luis Flores (Manhattan), Ricardo Greer (Pittsburgh), Jeff Greer (Rutgers), James Feldeine (Quinnipiac), Antonio Pena (Villanova), Kareem Reid (Arkansas), NBA veterans Francisco Garcia & Charlie Villanueva, as well as Brooklyn Nets star rookie Isaiah Whitehead and Washington Wizards forward Chris McCullough.

And then there were guys with colorful nicknames, such as “The Slasher”, “The Energizer Bunny”, Ralph “The Maniac, G-30 (on any given night he would score 30 points), the late Strickland, also called Panda Man, Raul “The Shooter” Mercedes, Salazar “The Volleyball Player,” John “Flash” Camilo, Junior “Baby Shaq” De La Rosa, Steven “No Fear” Polanco and “Disco Danny” Jordan.

Also on the college level, they have had players such as Angel Delgado (Seton Hall), the Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American, first-team All-Big East selection, and the nation’s leading rebounder this past season. Then there were other players such as Eric Paschall (Villanova), Adonis De La Rosa (Kent State) and Desi Rodriguez (Seton Hall).

Villanova’s own Eric Paschall also suits up for Dominican Power regularly every summer. (Photo courtesy of the Dyckman Basketball Tournament)

2006 was a big year for Dominican Power as they made noise around the city, and it was the year they won their second consecutive Dyckman championship, as well as a title at the famed Kingdome tournament in Harlem. Mikey recollected his memories of that season vividly:

“Man, 2006 was like no other. Thursday night, we played at the Kingdome and we beat Team Roc with Dame Dash and Jay-Z in the stands. So we won that chip, and you can say we maybe lost one game and in that championship game, Dame Dash had a whole NBA squad and I had my man, Skip to My Lou, Mr. Rafer Alston, come to me and tell me before tip-off.

Alston: “Yo, Mike, I want to play for your team.

Mikey: “Why? Look at the squad you got.”

Alston: “Nah, there’s a lot of politics, I want to play with you guys.”

Mikey: “Yo, I’m gonna be honest with you. If I put you down, and we win, we’re not gonna credit for it.”

Alston: “Why not?”

Mikey: “Cause everybody’s gonna say, ‘Oh, you guys won because of a black guy.’ Yo, I don’t want to do it like that. I just want to do it with my guys. As you can see, the whole entire squad is Dominican, so I want to do it with them. If we take it this year, next year, you know you can ride with me.”

Alston: “Nah, I’m gonna respect that.”

“Cause me and Skip, we’ve known each other for many years. Mind you, we were partying the night before, I came into this park [Dyckman], and I literally slept here and woke up at noon from oversleeping here, and partying the night before. I went home, showered, rested, and then came here to the park for that big-ass game.”

Another summer is here and Dominican Power is back and ready to do battle. Their mission for Summer ’17 is simple. “To bring the trophy back where it rightfully belongs, home,” says Mikey, “I got a little drought. I’m a two-time champion. I won it in ’05 and ’06. But you know, I got a little drought, 2006 to 2017, is a big gap. Last year, I thought we could’ve taken it, I had a good squad. The year before, when we ain’t have no lights, I knew I definitely had it in my hand. That game went down to the wire, and we were one game away from being in the chip. I feel like all of the pieces to the puzzle, I have them there. And it’s all a matter of time.”

Every Friday night, Dominican Power is ready for battle. (Photo courtesy of Mikey DP)

These days, Dominican Power has become famous even outside of Dyckman, especially with players in the NBA. “NBA, I gotta wait until July, cause everybody sees me, everybody follows me on the ‘gram. They see that I’m always traveling, always being with NBA players, always at NBA games. With that being said, they expect me to bring somebody. I gotta keep it on the hush-hush until the free agency period, after that’s up, then I’ll do what I gotta do.”

Every Friday night at Monsignor Kett Playground, also known as Dyckman Park, expect a roar from the crowd while the home team is in the building. There will always be excitement when Dominican Power has a game.

Mikey and the late, great John “The Franchise” Strickland. (Courtesy of Mike “DP” Jones)

Highlights of Dominican Power:

Courtesy of Inside Streetball.

Courtesy of Shot by BAM.

Courtesy of Shot by BAM.

Courtesy of Inside Streetball.

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