Enzo Flojo's Asia On My Mind
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The Jordan Clarkson effect on Philippine basketball

MANILA (Enzo Flojo's Asia on My Mind) - Jordan Clarkson has captured the hearts and minds of a nation, nay, an entire continent by playing in the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

It has been an interesting journey for both Clarkson and the Philippines national team to say the least. As recently as a few weeks ago, there wasn't even supposed to be a national men's basketball team from the Philippines playing in the quadrennial Asian Games.

With the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) feeling they wouldn't be able to field a strong enough team to contend for a medal, the Philippines backed out of sending a team to Jakarta, but public uproar eventually pushed them to do a 180-degree turn. With a headstrong coach in Yeng Guiao and a host of players stepping forward to represent the country, the national team was once again one of the headline teams for the country in what has been fondly called the "Olympics of Asia."

With hardly anybody from the Gilas Pilipinas squad that won 4 Asian Qualifiers games on the roster, though, there were tempered expectations for the Filipinos, who were bracketed with top Central Asia side Kazakhstan and many-time Asian Games champions China.

Suddenly, however, just a couple of days before they plunged into action, the national team received serendipitous news - bona fide NBA player and proud Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson was granted a much-belabored release to suit up for the Philippines.


It was something most Filipino basketball fans were hoping for, and now, after years of waiting, their collective wish finally came true.

In a snap, expectations for the national team rocketed to the heavens. With Clarkson leading the way alongside explosive PBA guard Stanley Pringle and celebrated Filipino-German big man Christian Standhardinger, the national squad no longer appeared like a rag-tag bunch of replacements. They quickly became the toasts of the Philippine delegation, and not surprisingly, they were among the biggest crowd drawers in the entire Games.

On the court, however, the actual game results were quite heartbreaking. After an easier-than-expected win over the Steppe Wolves in their first game, the Filipinos ran into the Great Wall of China in their second assignment, losing by 2 points despite Clarkson's 28-point explosion in his first ever international fixture.

That loss meant the Philippins would face painful tormentor Korea in the knockout Quarter-Finals, a team they have not beaten in more than five decades of Asian Games basketball. Clarkson was determined to play even better and deliver a triumph for the win-starved Filipinos, but alas, the Korean curse struck anew, piercing the hearts of the Philippine team and sending them crashing out of the medal rounds.

It was a stinging reality that after the roller-coaster ride the Philippine team already went through, they still found themselves on the flat of their backs unable to scale their age old rivals. For the fourth straight edition of the Asian Games, the Filipinos would fail to bring home a medal in the sport with which they are most obsessed. The wins were elusive, and even more so were the medals.

As fate would have it, they bounced back against a severely undermanned Japan in the consolation round and are set to play Syria for a top five finish. The Filipinos, at least, are assured of finishing better than their 2014 counterparts, who ended up 7th overall.


Clarkson himself has given a very good account of himself, as he has recorded averages of 25.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.0 steal and 3.3 three-pointers per game. Now how's that for a stat-line, eh? No wonder Filipino hoop junkies are praying to the basketball gods to have Clarkson available for future Asian Qualifiers windows.

No surprisingly, Clarkson's inclusion in the team has reignited fan support for the national team after all the drama of their third Asian Qualifiers window performance. Philippine fans in Indonesia rallied around the team, reserving basketball gyms so they can have additional practice time and sponsoring meals for their hardcourt idols.

Even athletes from other countries and other sports have hovered around the team, hoping for even the hastiest photo-op moment with the current Cleveland Cavalier. He probably got a taste of what the Dream Team experienced when they played in the Barcelona Olympics 1992.


After everything, though, the big question that has yet to have a clear answer is will Jordan Clarkson return to the Philippine national team in the future? Yes, the Philippines would love to have him, and he said it himself that he'd love to play for the national side again. His current circumstances, however, may once again, make that quite challenging.

His commitment to the NBA will likely make him unavailable in the next three Asian Qualifiers windows, and his status as a naturalized player will force the SBP to make tough decisions should the national team successfully qualify for next year's FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.

Will the SBP choose Clarkson over the tried-and-tested Andray Blatche or the always-available Christian Standhardinger? Will they roll the dice on putting Stanley Pringle on the squad instead, or will they revert back to a previous play of naturalizing center Isaiah Austin?

It's all up in the air for now, but at least for a brief couple of weeks, Jordan Clarkson's effect on Philippine basketball can be accurately described as palpable and ardent optimism. He has made Filipino basketball fans care for a program that for a time, seemed like a hodgepodge at best and shabby at worst.

May Clarkson's tribe grow, and may his auspicious effect on Philippine hoops extend even after the bright lights of the Asian Games have long been snuffed out.

Enzo Flojo


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Enzo Flojo

Enzo Flojo

Enzo Flojo, one of Manila’s top basketball bloggers, always has Asian basketball on his mind. His biggest basketball dream? To see an Asian team as a legitimate gold medal contender in world basketball. He believes it will happen in his lifetime. If you have big basketball dreams like he does, then you’re in the right place.