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Red-carpet welcome for Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson will soon torch the nets for Gilas Pilipinas. Photo by Alex Goodlett / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Gilas Pilipinas expects to bring Jordan Clarkson to Lithuania when it ramps up its buildup for the FIBA World Cup after the National Basketball Association standout advised of his availability for national team duty as early as late-June.

The Lithuanian camp may include a pocket tournament, a setup that is being revisited following Gilas Pilipinas’ preparations for the FIBA Asia Championships and FIBA World Cup in 2014.

The Philippines is bracketed with Angola, Italy and the Dominican Republic in Group A of the 32-nation cast.

Apart from Clarkson, who plays for the Utah Jazz, head coach Chot Reyes is also looking forward to the inclusion of reigning Philippine Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson, six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, who were not on the gold medal wining team in the recently-concluded Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh.

These four players are expected to rejoin Gilas’ restart of their training, which begins on 1 June.

Aside from Clarkson, who made his Gilas debut during the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, also being targeted to beef up the team for the 25 August to 10 September cagefest is AJ Edu, a 23-year-old 6-foot-10 Filipino-Cypriot.

Gilas team manager Butch Antonio told Daily Tribune that Edu has committed to play.

Edu first represented the Philippine team during the 2017 FIBA Under-18 3×3 tournament and the FIBA Under-19 World Cup in 2019, but suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury and a torn meniscus.

But the Toledo Rockets member is now excited to play in the men’s level where he will rejoin his former Gilas youth teammate Kai Sotto.

Tim Cone, who served as one of the assistant coaches of Chot Reyes in winning the SEA Games gold, knows how tough the World Cup is going to be and could only wish Christian Standhardinger be allowed to play as a local player.

Standhardinger could only play as a naturalized player in FIBA-sanctioned events and Cone knows how tough the road is going to be leading to the World Cup.

The 6-foot-8, Fil-German player had just announced his retirement from playing in the national team just recently.

But even in the absence of his prized big man, the two-time PBA grand slam coach and winningest mentor in league history wants to see the other big names, including Clarkson, to be available in the big event.

“There’s a tough road ahead of us,” said Cone.

“We just won the SEA Games gold medal and we hope that the basketball program would continue in the World Cup and beyond. With the World Cup coming up, there’s a lot of pressure being the World Cup to be held at home. We really wanted to do well.”

“We just have to get all of our guys that we can get like Kai Sotto and Jordan Clarkson and hopefully, June Mar and Japeth. All these guys, we need them all to help us out. We won a heartbeat in the SEA Games and now we’re trying to succeed in the World Cup.”

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