Tab Baldwin laments Jordan Clarkson’s eligibility issue: FIBA needs to wake up

Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin feels sorry for Jordan Clarkson and the fans for not having the LA Lakers rising star  in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Clarkson is in town to grace the unveiling of Nike’s new Gilas Pilipinas kits for the Olympic qualifiers and just like the last time he was here, he’s been reduced to just another ‘warm body’ during the drills and a spectator during the 5-on-5 scrimmages in the closed-door session practice on Saturday.

“It’s always great to have Jordan (Clarkson) around. He’s a very engaging guy. I just think he’s a great young kid. It’s a real shame that he isn’t playing for the Philippines,” Baldwin told reporters after the unveiling ceremony at Kerry Sports gym in Shangri-La Hotel in Global City.

“I think FIBA needs to wake up to the reality that there’s a lot of good basketball players in this world who should have the right to citizenship to a lot of countries other than just in the United States,” the American-Kiwi coach added.

Clarkson expressed his desire to represent his mother’s home country but FIBA as early as before the FIBA Asia tournament last year but has yet to be cleared to play international basketball for the Philippines as a local.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan said in a recent interview that FIBA made it clear to him that Clarkson, for now, is only eligible to play as a naturalized player. SBP opted to stick with Andray Blatche for the Olympic qualifiers given the complexities of getting Clarkson on board in such a short time.

Clarkson is still hopeful that he can wear the Gilas jersey in FIBA sanctioned tournaments in the near 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.

Baldwin thinks the fans are the biggest loser for not having players like Clarkson’s caliber to play for their countries of heritage in the international stage.

“Not because they live and train there (in the US) doesn’t mean their heritage doesn’t belong to another country. I think the world of basketball is a little bit robbed that they don’t have to see them playing international basketball,” Baldwin said.

But he was quick to add that he understands the predicament FIBA is facing.

“However, I do understand the challenges that they have to. There have been many cases in the past where countries have tried to bend the rules to their favor or get around the rules but I feel sorry for guys like Jordan because he’s a Filipino,” Baldwin said.

The Gilas coach, who has been to the World Championships and Olympics with New Zealand before and has coached in different parts of the world in the last two decades, is hoping that FIBA and SBP could strike a win-win solution soon.

“It’s not only him who wants to play for the country but it’s every single Filipino and the world of basketball wants to see great athletes like him on the court in international events so we gotta figure out a better way to do what we’re doing now,” Baldwin said. – By Alder Almo

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo