Jordan Clarkson may not be physically with Gilas Pilipinas when they take on world basketball powers in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament but he vowed to be with the team in spirit and support them all throughout the journey.
Clarkson, who will be in the middle of a new contract negotiation in the NBA when the qualifiers tip off in July, has yet to be cleared by FIBA to play as a local for the Philippines but still hopeful that he will have that opportunity in the future.
“I think it’s gonna feel great. It’s gonna be one of the best feelings for me as a basketball player to represent the country. Obviously, I’m looking forward to that,” said Clarkson, who graced the unveiling of the new Gilas Pilipinas kits for the Olympic Qualifiers at Kerry Sports gym in Shangri-La Hotel in Global City on Saturday.
With FIBA not yet keen on giving Clarkson the green light, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas opted to bring back Andray Blatche as Gilas’ naturalized player. Blatche, who appeared to be in better shape than he was in the FIBA Asia tournament, also arrived on the same night Clarkson hit town.
Clarkson later joined the national pool in a closed door practice session after the unveiling ceremony.
“I think we really have a good chance. All we need is fight and compete. Go out there and put everything on the floor… anything can happen. Basketball has been that way. You saw us beat Golden State (Warriors) this season and stuff like that so just go out there and leave it all on the line,” said Clarkson when asked what he thought of Gilas’ chances against world world powers France and New Zealand.
Clarkson, who traces his roots in Pampanga, sees the homecourt advantage to be working in Gilas’ favor much like how it does in the NBA.
“It works in our favor a lot with everybody coming out to support our (national) team. You see in the NBA, it’s hard to play on the road,” said Clarkson, who is hoping to ink a new deal with the Lakers.
The Mall of Asia Arena is expecting a huge crowd when the wildcard qualifiers will be played here for the first time on July 5-10 with France, Canada, Turkey, New Zealand, Senegal and Philippines fighting for that one spot in the Rio Olympics. – By Alder Almo
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