Jordan Clarkson will fly directly to China from the United States as he joins Gilas Pilipinas in the final stretch of its preparations for the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup set to unfurl in Manila and two other countries on August 25.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio told the Inquirer on Tuesday that the Filipino-American guard will be flying to China on Aug. 6 to reunite with national coach Chot Reyes and the training squad, giving coaching staff one less thing to worry about with the showcase just around the corner.
“One less variable to worry about,” Reyes told the Inquirer later in the evening. “Now we have to make sure all our work syncs with what JC brings to the team.”
Clarkson’s commitment finally puts an end to a long-running question on who is going to fill the naturalized player’s slot when the tournament gets going.
Gilas Pilipinas is scheduled to play in a pocket tournament in Heyuan, China, playing against Iran on Aug. 4 and then Senegal two days later.
A pair of friendlies against World No. 18 Montenegro and No. 31 Mexico have been arranged, and these games should, by then at the very least, have Clarkson suiting up with his teammates.
Gilas securing Clarkson thus bumps off Justin Brownlee for the lone naturalized player slot in the final roster for the World Cup. The beloved Barangay Ginebra import, who was granted Filipino citizenship back in January, has been big for Gilas in the World Cup qualifying windows and in the Southeast Asian Games.
Reyes announced in an earlier event at Meralco compound that Brownlee will instead lead the squad that will compete in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, in September.
Ange Kouame, the program’s other option for the slot, will be backstopping Rain or Shine in the Jones Cup that gets going a couple of days before the quadrennial event.
Reyes said that the former Ateneo ace remains an integral part of the program and the buildup, as he gives two-time World Cup veteran June Mar Fajardo a proper matchup in practices. INQ
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