Clarkson can only play as ‘naturalized player’ — FIBA

THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has accepted the sad fact that Fil-Am National Basketball Association (NBA) player Jordan Clarkson can only play as a “naturalized player” for Gilas Pilipinas and will utilize him as such in the 2023 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup and whenever possible.

FIBA, according to SBP executive director Sonny Barrios, has told the federation with finality that it’s not classifying the Utah Jazz guard as a “local” in spite of his Filipino lineage.

With this development, Gilas’ hopes of tapping Mr. Clarkson side by side with Ivorian-born big man Ange Kouame or other prospects for naturalization in a FIBA meet that had been effectively dashed.

Mr. Clarkson, the NBA 2020-21 Sixth Man of the Year awardee, will take this spot initially in the coming FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers fourth window against Lebanon on Aug. 25 in Beirut and Saudi Arabia four days later at the MOA Arena.

The 30-year-old Mr. Clarkson, who previously suited up for Gilas in the more eligibility-relaxed Asian Games in 2018, will join forces with Japan B.League campaigners Dwight Ramos, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena and Ray Parks and young guns Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao and Francis Lopez in the pool.

PBA stalwarts from the non-finalists in the Philippine Cup, such as Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra, will also be on board but will only be named as soon as the pro league’s ongoing semis is concluded.

The most immediate plan is to give Mr. Clarkson “ a feel” of the current Gilas pool prior to his eventual stint in next year’s World Cup.

The Gilas pool opens training camp on Monday with Mr. Clarkson expected to join in the next few days.

Although Mr. Clarkson is in the mix, Mr. Barrios said there’s room in Gilas for Mr. Kouame, who was granted Philippine citizenship last year.

“Ange’s (Kouame) naturalization won’t go to waste. Mr. Clarkson will not be available for window 5 and window 6 and the Southeast Asian Games so marami pa tayong puwedeng pag-gamitan kay Ange,” he said.

Mr. Clarkson’s commitment augurs well in Gilas’ bid to form its best possible team in the 2023 World Cup. — Olmin Leyba