PH duel vs China ‘just another game’ for debuting Clarkson
JAKARTA—For someone whom Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao described as one that “could break down any defense at will,” Jordan Clarkson looked so passive offensively in practice Sunday afternoon he bordered on being boring.
Guiao, though, in the very short time that he has handled the Cleveland star in the NBA, knows exactly what Clarkson is up to.
“It seems as if he’s trying to gauge his teammates,” Guiao told Filipino scribes who were in Day 4 of the Clarkson watch, as Gilas practiced for two solid hours in preparation for a mammoth contest with tournament favorite China happening Tuesday afternoon.
“You can see him passing more often than taking a shot because he’s trying to find out who among his teammates could be the most reliable in game situations,” Guiao explained after the full-throttle practice at Plaza Festival gym here.
“But if you look at him closely, kayang-kaya niya itong level of basketball dito (he can easily dominate the level of basketball here),” Guiao said.
Gilas slugs it out with China at 4 p.m. (5 p.m. in Manila) on Tuesday at GBK’s Basketball Hall, and though the Philippines is listed as the great underdog against the Great Wall, Guiao and the rest of his gang are exuding some confidence.
And it’s because of Clarkson.
“It’s just another game,” Clarkson told the Inquirer before boarding the team bus back to the Athletes Village. “I’m excited to play, yeah. But, you know, I’ll just treat it like any other game, play the best that I can play and help the team win.”
Clarkson has become the toast of these Games, as reports have reached Philippine Team coaching staff and management of brisk ticket sales among local fans wanting to get a glimpse of the 26-year-old half-Filipino in action.
“He really is different,” Guiao said of Clarkson. “He’s special. I have never coached anyone with the talent and athleticism that he has. And I am truly honored to be the first (Filipino) to coach an active NBA player.”
Guiao reiterated that Clarkson will not be a one-man wrecking crew for Gilas against the Chinese—or whomever the Filipinos will play afterwards.
“I want to use him in a way that can make the team better,” Guiao told the Inquirer. “With the attention that he is getting here, counting the international media, we can be sure that all defenses will be trying to shut him down.
“And that’s where his teammates should step up to help him,” Guiao went on. “You saw how he can pass the ball. With his skill set, he could definitely find the open man once he’s in trouble (with the defense).”
But given an endgame scenario, when the clock is winding down and the Philippines having the ball with a chance to win it with one shot, Guiao was asked whom will he go to for the final play.
“Of course we all know what we’re going to do,” Guiao said with a wide smile. “We’ll give the ball to Asi (Taulava) behind the three-point line.”
He then went off and made his way to the bus, chuckling like a little kid before looking back and saying: “Like I said, JC (Clarkson) can break down any defense in the last six or seven seconds (of the game clock).”
Guiao didn’t need to say that he was kidding about Taulava.
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