Jordan Clarkson did not disappoint in his first game on Philippine soil as the charismatic Fil-Am powered Gilas Pilipinas to a 38-point rout of Saudi Arabia, 84-46, Monday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Clarkson put on a show before a jampacked crowd of Gilas supporters which included newly-elected President Bongbong Marcos and finished with 23 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes of action as the country’s national basketball squad improved to 3-3 in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The Utah Jazz guard kept Gilas afloat by scoring 9 of the team’s first 11 points as the hosts trailed by 3, 11-14, after the opening round.
The Filipinos, however, started to hit their stride in the second frame and then broke the game wide open in the third canto by outscoring the visitors 24-8.
“The one thing that we wanted to focus on before the game was to just get better. To play better than our previous game against Lebanon. That meant having better effort, and specifically, cutting down on our turnovers,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes shortly after the match.
“I think today, we had 15 turnovers, and that’s pretty acceptable. So very happy for the result, and even happier for the effort that the players put forth in this ball game,” he added.
Kai Sotto backstopped the team’s naturalized player with a double-double of 16 points and 13 boards to go with 4 blocks. Dwight Ramos added 9 points while Japeth Aguilar and Kiefer Ravena chipped in 8 markers apiece.
“I think I felt all the energy in the crowd, I think we all did, as a team,” said Clarkson.
“It is different playing at home, in front of your own people, and this arena is beautiful. I cannot wait to come back here again and play some more games,” added the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.