By Cip D.C. Cabrera
NBA star Jordan Clarkson (left) and NBL Fans MVP Kai Sotto of the Adelaide 36ers. (Photo courtesy: Sports Illustrated/Spiel Times/30 Warehouse-Sketchup)
MANILA — With National Basketball Association (NBA) star Jordan Clarkson and 2022 National Basketball League (NBL) Fans Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kai Sotto on board Team Gilas Pilipinas, the best could be hoped for as the country’s “super team” is nearing completion of its lineup that would compete in the upcoming Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball Amateur (FIBA) World Cup Asian qualifiers.
This could also be a preview of what to expect for the country’s hosting of the World Cup next year, where the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and stakeholders like the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)—following reports of a possible Senate probe of the national team’s sordid performance in recent international competitions—had to throw in its full support to assemble not just the best skilled players but also in showcasing the country’s world-class hosting skills.
According to SBP sources, Clarkson is due to arrive next week while Sotto will follow soon, too, to join the Gilas Pilipinas squad in the coming August window of the World Cup in Beirut when the Philippines takes on host Lebanon on August 26 and then face upstart Saudi Arabia on August 29 here in Manila.
“Sotto arrives on the 18th and Clarkson will be on the 19th,” SBP executive director Renauld ‘Sonny’ Barrios wrote in a Viber message.
This will be the first time for the Utah Jazz point guard to see action donning once again the country’s colors since he suited up for the Philippine squad in the 2018 Asian Games then mentored by veteran coach Joseller ‘Yeng’ Guiao.
Meanwhile, for Gilas’ current head coach Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes, Clarkson’s early arrival will be an opportunity to immerse the Fil-Am player in the system of the national team while playing alongside some of the players who might be included in the World Cup team next year.
However, the 6-foot-3 Utah Jazz guard is expected to be reserved a slot next year as a naturalized player along with Sotto, the 7-foot-3 center playing for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League Australia. And since he didn’t pass as a local player as per FIBA, Clarkson is now the logical naturalized player with Sotto manning the middle.
In the coming window of the World Cup qualifiers, Clarkson and Sotto will alongside brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos and Ray Parks, all of them becoming the rising stars in the Japan B.League, and UAAP stalwarts LeBron Lopez, Carl Tamayo and Kevin Quiambao.
Barrios clarified that the rest of the members of the national squad for the coming fourth window will be named anytime soon as they expect PBA players, particularly those who are not playing in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup Final Four, to be named to join Gilas.
Among those names are Calvin Oftana of the North Luzon Express (NLEX) Road Warriors and Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. (ai/mtvn)