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Clarkson to arrive early; Sotto still doubtful


National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson vowed to come up with a longer preparation with Gilas Pilipinas for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup set from 25 August to 10 September.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said the National Basketball Association stalwart had already committed to join them for at least six months or longer as they brace for a grueling battle in the world’s most prestigious basketball tournament outside the Summer Olympics.

“Six weeks at least and it could be earlier,” Reyes told Daily Tribune in an exclusive interview.

“He will rejoin us wherever we are holding our training camp.”

Although the Filipinos already have Ange Kouame and Justin Brownlee, the 30-year-old Clarkson is expected to serve as naturalized player when they compete in the World Cup that will also be held simultaneously in Tokyo and Jakarta with the final round to be staged at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

But Reyes asserted that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas still hopes to field Clarkson as a local player, giving Gilas Pilipinas the luxury of picking another naturalized player to form a very solid team that is capable of giving heavyweights like the United States, Spain and Slovenia a run for their money.

“I believe in miracles. We’re still trying. That would be the best situation for us. But right now, it’s a no,” Reyes said when asked about the possibility of having Clarkson and Brownlee don the Gilas Pilipinas jersey in the same tournament.

Should Clarkson and Brownlee get the green light to play together, Gilas Pilipinas will be a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Sideliners, in fact, strongly believe that they will perfectly complement each other as Clarkson is an explosive scorer who is efficient with the ball on his hands while Brownlee is a great role player who can make his teammates look good.

In the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, Brownlee made his presence felt as he averaged 29 points per game, including a 41-point explosion in Gilas Pilipinas’ 91-90 loss to Jordan late Monday at the Philippine Arena.

Clarkson, for his part, is also already familiar with the Filipino brand of play after seeing action for the Yeng Guiao-mentored national squad in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018 and the fourth window of the qualifiers in which Gilas lost to Lebanon, 81-85, in Beirut before winning over Saudi Arabia, 84-46, in Pasay City.

But while Clarkson is already committed, Kai Sotto’s participation remains hanging in limbo.

Reyes admitted that they have yet to secure a firm commitment from Sotto and his management team, especially now that the 7-foot-2 slotman had already signed up a new contract with the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B. League and skipped the sixth window of the qualifiers.

“You just can’t come and show up in the team. It doesn’t matter who you are. You have to be able to be part of the preparation,” Reyes said.

“It’s not just being available two weeks before. The plan is for us to go out as early as June, middle of July so we have to put in the time and the preparation.”

The Gilas tactician added that they are already plotting a “Plan B” just in case Sotto will not be on board by the time their training goes full blast.

“With all the uncertainties surrounding the Kai Sotto situation not gonna make himself available, I think we have to think about that as well. That’s just part of all of the planning on our plate right now,” Reyes said.

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