Gilas excited to have Clarkson in practice despite uncertainty
(READ AND VOTE: Build youg Gilas Pilipinas dream team)
“It was great to see him. I’m like every Gilas fan when I see a player of his caliber walk in the gym, it’s exciting,” Baldwin said after the team’s practice late Wednesday night, August 26, before cautioning against getting caught up in the hype.
“But I think the most important thing is not to get carried away with right now with whether Jordan’s going to play or not. We don’t know.”
Veteran swingman Gabe Norwood, who was seen conversing in good spirits with the 23-year old Clarkson during training, admitted the possibility of an NBA All-Rookie First Team member playing alongside them is “uplifting” for Gilas.
“You hear the rumors, you hear the buzz for the last I don’t even know how many days or weeks now. It was good to have him here with us, pretty easy-going guy, got along with everybody,” Norwood said. “But just to see him on the court, have him out here, I think it was just uplifting for everybody in the gym.”
Clarkson joined Gilas in practice and participated in a handful of drills despite the original plan for him to only “observe.” He learned some of the team’s offensive sets and was in conversation with Baldwin, assistant coaches Norman Black and Alex Compton, as well as some of the players as he watched along the sidelines.
He also worked out by himself, practicing some jumpers, three-pointers, floaters, and post moves.
Clarkson, whose mother Annette is a native of Angeles City, Pampanga, has been named to the national team’s 24-man pool submitted to FIBA by Philippine basketball federation Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
But his eligibility for Gilas is still to be confirmed as the SBP awaits FIBA’s decision after submitting all the required documents, including a passport before Clarkson turned 16. FIBA’s rule requires players with two nationalities to have officially claimed citizenship for the country they wish to play for before turning 16.
A big boost for Gilas
Amid the uncertainty of Clarkson’s participation with Gilas, there is still a glimmer of hope that players such as Jayson Castro are holding on to, knowing what Clarkson can potentially bring to the team.
“Sana nga makalaro siya diba kasi malaking tulong siya sa amin,” he shared, explaining that having Clarkson can ease up pressure on guards like him to score and at the same time run the offense.
“Kung nandiyan si Andray (Blatche) tapos siya diba? Tapos kami parang supporting cast na lang, which is maganda sa amin kasi may mga scorer talaga. Sana.”
(I hope he can play because he’d be a huge help to us. Imagine if we have Andray and him, right? And we’ll be the supporting cast, which is better for us because there are real scorers. I really hope so.)
Norwood, whose college best friend helped Clarkson prepare for the NBA Draft, shared the same sentiment.
“Whether it’s a dribble drive or we’re mixing up a bit our swing offense, he’s proven he can come off screens, catch and shoot, he can bring the ball on the court and create his shot. His versatility is definitely something that’ll fit in with us,” he explained, but advised against placing too much expectation and pressure on Clarkson.
“If we can strike any type of fear into our opponents’ hearts that’s an advantage but at the same time you got to be fair to Jordan and the situation,” Norwood said.
“To put that type of pressure on him, he’s never played internationally to my knowledge, and I think that’s a lot of pressure to put on his back. At the end of the day he’s still a second year pro.”
Meanwhile, Baldwin pointed out the mere fact that Clarkson had a desire to play for the Philippines – and made the effort to immerse himself in what the team was doing – was enough good news to power a Gilas squad struggling to get up on its feet a month before the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, Hunan, China.
“I think the thing that we should all be excited about is he’s here because he wants to be here,” he said.
“There’s nobody with a gun to Jordan’s head. He wants to play for the Philippines and that’s about as exciting an announcement as there can be. I guess the only announcement that can be better is that he can play for the Philippines but we still have to wait for that.”
Clarkson has yet to speak out on the issues surrounding his sudden eligibility, after it was long widely believed he would only be able to play for the Philippines by way of naturalization.
The plot thickened after PhilStar.com reported Thursday, August 27 that Clarkson’s father Mike Clarkson said his son will not suit up for Gilas due to bad timing as the national team stint will coincide with the Lakers’ preparations for the upcoming NBA season.
Clarkson will hold a press conference on Friday, August 28 to address questions about his future with the Philippine national team. – Rappler.com
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