FIBA World Cup

Clarkson, Fontecchio trade praises after World Cup match

JR Isaga

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Clarkson, Fontecchio trade praises after World Cup match

WORLD, MEET UTAH. Jordan Clarkson (left) and Simone Fontecchio pose for photos at the 2023 FIBA World Cup


After their FIBA World Cup match, Jordan Clarkson says Italy is lucky to have Utah Jazz teammate Simone Fontecchio, while the latter says the Philippines is fortunate to have Clarkson in its team

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since teaming up with the NBA’s Utah Jazz, veteran guard Jordan Clarkson and late-blooming prospect Simone Fontecchio faced each other on opposite ends of the court as FIBA World Cup host Gilas Pilipinas took on Italy in the group phase on Tuesday, August 29.

Although Fontecchio got the last laugh over Clarkson after the Italians held on to eliminate the Filipinos from title contention, 90-83, the 27-year-old forward nonetheless still took time to praise his NBA mentor after the game.

“It was great, it was great. He’s a hell of a player, played his heart out the whole game,” he said. “The whole three games I saw him, he was unbelievable. You guys [in the Philippines] are really lucky to have him.”

Without yet hearing what Fontecchio said, Clarkson coincidentally coursed his thoughts through a similar vein when asked about facing his new Utah teammate, who only came over to the Jazz in 2022 following a 10-year pro career in Europe.

“Hopefully, when all of us get together in Utah, me, Lauri [Markkanen], everybody playing, we can string together a strong season. Italy is lucky to have Simone. Such a great dude and a great competitor. Really good guy,” said Clarkson, who is also teammates with USA’s Walker Kessler and Canada’s Kelly Olynyk.

“He’s been super cool, getting to meet him and stuff last year and playing on the same team and knowing what he does. He can shoot the ball really well, he’s strong, he’s big. I’m happy to see him succeeding in these games and having strong performances.”

Although Fontecchio’s Italy and Clarkson’s Gilas have piled up contrasting group phase records, both players have individually excelled for their respective nations and have both been invaluable to their campaigns.

Fontecchio, despite being in a stacked team with the likes of Nicolo Melli, Marco Spissu, and Gigi Datome, is still Italy’s leading scorer (16th overall) with averages of 16.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Clarkson, meanwhile, is the World Cup’s fourth best scorer with 24.0 points per game, just behind Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, Jordan’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and South Sudan’s Carlik Jones.

As it stands, Italy and the Philippines now have different goals as the World Cup rolls along.

The Azzurri are still in the hunt for their first top four finish since 1978, while Gilas is already eyeing Asia’s lone 2024 Paris Olympics berth by gunning for the best World Cup finish among all Asian teams.

Both nations certainly have strong cases for their respective goals, as long as their lucky charms remain on board. –

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