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MANILA, Philippines – NBA player Jordan Clarkson will lead the charge for the 12 players who will don the national colors in the FIBA World Cup as Gilas Pilipinas unveiled its final lineup on Wednesday, August 23, after a long wait.
Joining the Utah Jazz star are World Cup returnees June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez, and Roger Pogoy, who represented the country in the previous edition in China four years ago.
World Cup first-timers Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Scottie Thompson, AJ Edu, Jamie Malonzo, and Rhenz Abando complete the squad, as confirmed by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio.
Thirdy Ravena, Ray Parks, Calvin Oftana, and Chris Newsome fell short of a roster spot after a rigorous two-month training camp that took the Filipinos to Europe and China.
Newsome proved to be the final cut, with T. Ravena, Parks, and Oftana sitting out the Philippines’ three-game exhibition slate against Ivory Coast, Montenegro, and Mexico.
Parks and T. Ravena missed all three games, while Oftana played only against the Montenegrins.
Then held back by a short preparation time and injuries to key players, the Filipinos bowed to Serbia, Italy, Angola, Tunisia, and Iran by an average of 29.4 points as they finished dead-last out of the 32 participating nations.
With Clarkson in tow and the country co-hosting the global hoops showpiece, Gilas Pilipinas hopes to avoid another disastrous run.
The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year is coming off his best statistical season, averaging career-highs of 20.4 points, 4.4 assists, and 4 rebounds as a full-pledged starter for the Jazz.
Clarkson will share backcourt duties with Ramos, Thompson, Perez, K. Ravena, and Pogoy.
Abando and Malonzo, meanwhile, will be relied on for their athleticism, three-point shooting, and penchant for momentum-changing highlight plays on the wing.
Gilas Pilipinas will parade arguably its biggest frontcourt since its return to the World Cup in 2014 with four players who stand at least 6-foot-9.
Sotto, a 7-foot-3 beanpole, is the tallest in the lineup followed by 6-foot-10 Fajardo, 6-foot-10 Edu, and 6-foot-9 Aguilar.
Once the stars of the Gilas Boys crew that represented the country in the 2018 U17 World Cup and 2019 U19 World Cup, Sotto and Edu team up again for another World Cup run, this time in the senior level.
With two young bigs in Sotto and Edu making the roster, Fajardo and Aguilar provide valued experience as they see action in their third straight World Cup.
Fajardo and Aguilar are the only remnants of the fancied 2014 squad that pushed Argentina, Croatia, and Puerto Rico to the limit and gave the Philippines its first World Cup win in 40 years by beating Senegal.
Almost a decade since that last World Cup victory, Gilas Pilipinas looks to end the drought as it opens its campaign against Dominican Republic on August 25 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. – Rappler.com