Playing in front of the Pinoy crowd for the first time since seeing action for the Philippine squad, NBA star Jordan Clarkson didn't disappoint and gave the local folks something to remember.
Clarkson was cheered in no end the moment he gets the basketball and the Utah Jazz guard was able to deliver 23 points and inspire Gilas Pilipinas to win big at home, 84-46, against Saudi Arabia in its last game of the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
For the most part in the first half, it was Clarkson who carried much of the load for the Philippines. At one stretch, he had 14 of the 18 points of the squad with the other four points coming from Kai Sotto.
Then the other Gilas players began to step in.
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Dwight Ramos and Japeth Aguilar started providing their share so as brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena and later on, Parks.
Sotto also asserted his might as the 7-foot-3 center ended up with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
"Sky is the limit for him," said Clarkson on Sotto. "He's what, only 20 years old. I didn't get to the NBA until I was 21."
But while Clarkson felt the love and warmth of the local fans, it was never the same on head coach Chot Reyes, who was booed by the Pinoy crowd inside the Mall of Asia Arena.
Clarkson appreciated the love shown by the fans, but he also asked for support to do the same thing to the other members of the team, most notably, Reyes.
"He's part of us, he's one of us," Clarkson said. "He had boos in the crowd whatever is going on. Seeing it these last days was like kinda bull...., excuse the language. I don't know if I'll get fined by FIBA. But he's our coach, he's one of us, he works hard. He's been away from the game but he came back."
"He's coming back to the game because he loves the country. He loves this team. Each and everyone of us, to be honest, coach was the first person who talked to me when I was going out of college, just being here, sitting next to him, that's all what we've envisioned. This has all been a blessing. For somebody to give rock stone at him, for putting us together, bringing me and Kai and his vision of coming back to the game, it's bull .... I just hope we should all support him and support what he needs to go on in this next World Cup. Whatever we got, we're gonna have each other's back and support each other going through this."