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Showstopper

Jordan Clarkson’s stint with Gilas Pilipinas may be short — but it was worth it.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes couldn’t help but marvel at the professionalism and kind-hearted demeanor of Clarkson during his campaign in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers that ended on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

He said the Utah Jazz stalwart was an epitome of hard work and dedication as he did his best to represent the country — even going beyond what was initially indicated in his playing contract.

In fact, Clarkson was only tasked to train once a day, but the soft-spoken Filipino-American swingman decided to join other local players in a grueling twice-a-day session.

“If I can make a comment, what we appreciate with JC (Clarkson) besides what you see on the floor is his work ethic,” Reyes said during the post-match press conference following their masterful 84-46 rout of Saudi Arabia.

“Behind the scenes, he always comes in early, never late, and never misses film sessions.”

“In fact, there’s a provision in his contract that he can’t do two practices a day but he still went on and practiced when we had two practices. That’s very important in our team. That makes our jobs easier. That’s leadership.”

With Reyes and the entire Gilas Pilipinas squad under fire due to their recent lapses in the international stage, the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year provided the spark, giving more than 19,800 local fans a good reason to believe in the national team program again.

He kept the Saudis guessing with blinding speed, superb ball-handling, shooting accuracy and basketball brilliance that can only be seen in legitimate and seasoned NBA campaigners.

Clarkson treated the electric home crowd to a spectacular show as he was sizzling hot right from the get-go, knocking down a long three-pointer in the first three minutes of action before sinking a buzzer-beating trey from way downtown to end the first period.

He ended the night with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds on top of a handful of highlight reels that include dunks, long bombs and nifty passes.

After the game, Clarkson was an ultimate team player, joining Ray Parks and his Gilas teammates in a selfie before having another light moment at the locker room where he signed all their shoes, playing jerseys and shirts.

“We were able to build a bond in Beirut and getting back here,” said Clarkson, who fired 27 points in Gilas Pilipinas’ sorry 84-81 loss to Lebanon last week.

“We all have some pretty ones. No cameras allowed. Our team is pretty free-flowing, having a good time in practice. We know when to lock in and be serious. Everybody is free-flowing, having fun.”

Now that his task for Gilas is done, the Filipino-American star is looking forward to spending his remaining days in the country with the team.

“We’re looking forward to hanging out before I get out of here,” he said.

Clarkson, however, is unlikely to see action for the remainder of the qualifiers as he focuses on the opening of the 2022-2023 NBA season in October.

Gilas will be facing Jordan on 10 November and Saudi Arabia on 13 November.

He is expected to return for Gilas’ three-month buildup for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, where he is being groomed to be the country’s naturalized player against the best teams in the world.

“I can’t wait to come back here and play some more games. To have everybody behind us and get some wins,” Clarkson said.

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