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Clarkson battles Jazz teammates

Strong start, but not enough for NBA star Jordan Clarkson. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FIBA

Now that Jordan Clarkson is already committed to Gilas Pilipinas, there is a strong possibility that he will collide against some of his Utah Jazz teammates in the FIBA Basketball World Cup from 25 August to 10 September.

Walker Kessler of the United States, Kelly Olynyk of Canada, Lauri Markkanen of Finland and Simone Fontecchio of Italy are also set to join the prestigious 32-nation event, putting them in a possible collision course with Clarkson and the Filipinos.

After a strong rookie season, Kessler initially decided to suit up for the Select Team, a group of stars tasked to help Team USA in its preparation for the World Cup.

But with stars like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard declining to join, Kessler was elevated to the final roster of the American team that will play at the Mall of Asia Arena together with New Zealand, Jordan and Greece.

Meanwhile, Olynyk has served as a veteran locker room voice and a defensive specialist for the Canadians, who will play the preliminaries in Jakarta against Latvia, Lebanon and France.

Same goes for Markkanen, the National Basketball Association’s Most Improved Player who arrived in Utah as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland.

He will be joining a Finnish squad that will collide with Australia, Germany and Japan in Okinawa in the preliminaries.

But among his Jazz teammates, it was Fontecchio who would be directly blocking Clarkson’s path to World Cup glory.

Despite having an up-and-down NBA campaign, the 6-foot-7 journeyman and the Italians will battle Gilas Pilipinas as well as Dominican Republic and Angola in the preliminaries at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Fontecchio may be a role player in the NBA, but he is expected to play a major role in the Italians attack as he has been with the national team since he was 16 until helping them to reach the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Clarkson will be reconnecting with his Gilas teammates on 6 August when they compete in a four-nation pocket tournament in China, giving him three weeks to study the system before the World Cup tips off.

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