THE NBA-caliber weapon is in and now it’s time for Gilas Pilipinas to fully get locked and loaded for the FIBA World Cup (WC).
An upbeat Jordan Clarkson arrived early yesterday, raring to get going for the campaign that starts in less than three weeks.
“Great, amazing (to be back),” the Fil-Am Utah Jazz star told News5 after his 15-hour flight from Los Angeles. “I’m excited to be with the team again.”
The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year awardee expressed confidence Gilas can pull off surprises in the WC on home ground, where it’s pitted against the Dominican Republic, Angola and Italy.
“I think we got a good chance to do some things. To win some games,” he said.
The arrival of Mr. Clarkson, who averaged 20.8 points on 44.4 percent field goal shooting and 33.8-percent three-point marksmanship for Utah last season, fills up Gilas’ firepower void.
“It’s no secret that our offense is not as smooth and polished as we want it to be and a lot of that is because we’re building the offense around Jordan (Clarkson) who is not here,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said as the Mr. Clarkson-less pool wrapped up its China training with a 63-48 romp over Iran Monday.
“So just by having him here hopefully we can get the offense now to a better place, to a higher level, to a place for which we were preparing these past months. Essentially we were preparing so that it will be an easy integration for Jordan and us.”
Without Mr. Clarkson and injured playmaker Scottie Thompson, the Gilas pool finished its stint in the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament in Guangdong, China with back-to-back wins and 3-1 overall.
After starting the meet with a win over Iran, 76-65, and a loss to tall Senegal, 72-64, the National got back at the Lions, 75-63, then repeated against the young Iranians, to gain momentum and confidence ahead of their final stretch of training with Mr. Clarkson.
Mr. Reyes’ troops arrived in Manila a few hours after Mr. Clarkson checked out of the NAIA 1. The Gilas naturalized player is set to report for his first practice with the Nationals today. — Olmin Leyba