Clarkson’s baptism of fire today as Gilas faces China

By: Inquirer August 20,2018 - 10:45 PM

Jordan Clarkson /Inquirer.net

JAKARTA — Jordan Clarkson will treat this as any other game he has played in his life, but for the people back home, the anticipation is numbing.

Clarkson finally gets his baptism of fire in international play when Gilas Pilipinas clashes with heavy favorite China Tuesday afternoon in the 18th Asian Games, and the way he will lead — and ultimately, carry this team — will more or less dictate the result on how far the Filipinos will go in the gold medal chase that matters most to the Filipino.

After finally shaking off jetlag and being to get to practice with his new teammates, Clarkson takes the GBK Basketball Hall floor at 4 p.m. (5 p.m. in Manila) and will be the focal point of the Nationals when they try to bring down the Great Wall that would more or less assure them of a medal here.

“Our main concern is their size,” coach Yeng Guiao told the Inquirer. “If we can control their size, then we have a big chance. If we can’t do that, sa kangkungan tayo pupulutin.”

Guiao admits to being the terrible underdog against the Chinese, but got a boost in confidence when Clarkson arrived and he got to see firsthand what the Cleveland Cavalier in the NBA could do — which will ultimately benefit the team.

“I haven’t seen skills like that in any import in the PBA,” Guiao said. “His abilities are off the charts — his quickness, his athleticism. There’s no player like him in this tournament, that I can guarantee you.”

But if people are thinking that Clarkson will be the do-it-all guy for Gilas, they’d be frustrated to learn that Guiao has other things planned.

“What we want him to do is make the team better,” Guiao said. “He has able teammates who can support him. Paul Lee is playing exceptionally well, and you all saw what Stanley (Pringle) could do. With his intelligence (on the floor), JC can get everyone involved. And that’s what we’re looking for.”

Pringle scored 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting in a 96-59 victory over Kazakhstan last Thursday and together with Lee, Guiao believes Gilas has a formidable backcourt rotation that can cut down the hulking Chinese, who will be led by 7-foot-1 Shou Qi, a back-up center for the Houston Rockets.

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