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Gilas shifts focus on Paris Olympic berth

GILAS Pilipinas naturalized player Jordan Clarkson is well aware that the 2023 FIBA World Cup classification phase won't be a walk in the park for host team Philippines.

After playing three tough games in the group stage that ended in heartbreaking defeats to the Dominican Republic, Angola and Italy, Clarkson expects the grind to continue for the Filipinos — but not without them giving a fight.

Jordan Clarkson PHOTO BY RIO DELUVIO

As it stands now heading to the final group stage play on Wednesday, the Philippines will likely play China and either Puerto Rico or South Sudan in the classification round with Gilas now shifting its focus on earning a ticket to the Paris Olympics in 2024.

But for that to come to fruition, Gilas needs to sweep its two classification games to boost its chances.

The 31-year-old Clarkson has high respect for South Sudan, a first-time FIBA World Cup qualifier.

“They are very physical and athletic,” Clarkson said, in describing South Sudan, which went on an 11-1 record in the qualifiers to earn a spot in the FIBA World Cup in Manila.

The Utah Jazz superstar said he has high regard as well for former Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng, now president of the South Sudan basketball federation, for planting the vision of greatness that is now bearing fruit today for the young African squad.

“I watched them play a few games, and their coach is good as well,” said the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

“I know Luol Deng and how he put that program out there.

(Current Los Angeles Lakers forward) Wenyen Gabriel is also there as well, very athletic and runs very well.”

South Sudan on Monday shocked the world when it registered a runaway 89-69 demolition of China in their own group stage match.

It was a historic win for the young team, which got a big lift from American-South Sudanese Carlik Jones, the NBA G League Most Valuable Player last season, as he top scored for the team with 21 points.

Another future star in the making for South Sudan is 16-year-old big man Khaman Maluach, who registered six rebounds and two blocks against the Chinese.

Clarkson also noted that China could be a tough nut to crack, too, noting the presence of 7-foot-1 slot man Zhou Qi, forward Zhui Rao and naturalized player Li Kaier (Kyle Anderson) of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I'm very familiar with that team [from China]. Kyle Anderson has joined them as well and their big guy,” Clarkson said, referring to Zhou Qi.

“[These are] two really good teams that we're gonna come out here, put together, compete and win. That's what we wanna do. We're not coming out here to lose,” shared Clarkson, who averages do-it-all numbers of 24 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists in the group stage.

“These two teams are good. They've been put together well with size and everything, we're ready to compete and fight.”

As of posting time, Serbia leads the Group B standings with its 2-0 record, followed by Puerto Rico and South Sudan's 1-1 cards. China is in the cellar with its 0-2 record.

Serbia will be shooting for a sweep of its group with a win over South Sudan on Wednesday at 4 p.m., while Puerto Rico tangles with China at 8 p.m. Both games are being played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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