Clarkson arrives to inspire youth
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 28, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - NBA guard Jordan Clarkson arrived in Manila from Los Angeles last night and will attend a swirl of basketball events this weekend in his third visit to Filipina mother Annette’s homeland.

While nothing definite has been announced as to what Clarkson will do here, a source confirmed the other day that Nike is involved in bringing him over. It’s highly likely Clarkson will show up at the media event unveiling the new Gilas team kits at the Kerry Sports Gym in the Shangri-La Hotel, Global City, early this afternoon. Gilas will hold a practice in the facility after the unveiling and if Clarkson attends, he’ll probably join the national team in drills with coach Tab Baldwin.

Clarkson’s primary goal in this trip is supposedly to inspire aspiring youth in their basketball hopes. If that’s the purpose, Clarkson will probably visit a gym or a sandlot where kids are playing sometime today or tomorrow. To interact with an NBA player, particularly a Fil-Am, would be a dream come true for any Filipino boy or girl who is hooked to the game.

Gracing the Gilas kit unveiling would make sense for Clarkson. First, as a dual Filipino and American citizen, he’s eligible to play for Gilas. He has still to suit up for the national team but with a Philippine passport, he passes the FIBA requirement at least as a naturalized player. And second, as a Nike athlete, there couldn’t be anyone more appropriate to promote the Gilas kit than only the second Fil-Am to play in the NBA after Raymond Townsend in 1982.

To be unveiled are the dark and light Gilas jerseys and shorts and two models of the Gilas Nike Hyperdunk 2016, one a flyknit version. The dark jersey is in blue with white letters and numbers while the light jersey is in white with red letters and numbers. The Hyperdunk features an engineered mesh upper with PILIPINAS inscribed vertically on the tongue. The shoes will be available in the local market in July before the start of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Nike Vapor uniforms combine progressive knot jerseys and shorts, employing Nike Aeroswift technology with innovative base layers to minimize game-time distractions and maximize performance.

Tomorrow afternoon, Clarkson could make an appearance during the La Salle-Ateneo senior men’s basketball game in the Filoil Flying V Tournament at the San Juan Gym. Both the Blue Eagles and Archers are Nike-sponsored. His presence would no doubt inspire the varsity players in keeping with the goal of his weekend trip.

Clarkson, his brother Julian and Adrian Stelly of Nike Global Sports Marketing flew in last night and will leave Monday morning. Stelly, 31, played four years with the University of Oregon varsity up to 2006-07 and his teammates included former PBA import Champ Oguchi and NBA players Aaron Brooks and Malik Hairston. He is Nike’s pro basketball field representative.

Clarkson, 23, will become a restricted free agent this summer after playing two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers on a combined salary of $1.35 Million. The Lakers own the second overall pick in the NBA draft on June 23 with 6-10 Ben Simmons of Louisiana State and 6-9 Brandon Ingram of Duke the consensus top two choices. The franchise intends to rebuild after posting a forgettable 17-65 record this past season.

With the Lakers’ maximum cap space of $62.6 Million, the team should be able to easily match whatever offer Clarkson receives from other clubs. He could be in line for a four-year $57.8 Million deal.

Clarkson recently said in an interview on the radio station Power 106 LA that he’s excited to work with Lakers new head coach Luke Walton, jumping in from an assistant’s role at Golden State. Brian Shaw will be Walton’s lead assistant.

“I was real excited when I heard (Walton) got hired,” said Clarkson. “We got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, Julius (Randle), D’Angelo (Russell), Larry (Nance), including myself, so I think it’s something we should be excited for.” In the same interview, Clarkson spoke about his love for the Philippines, saying “(Filipinos) just show so much love to the sport and I just do my best to make them proud.”

It was Clarkson’s father Mike who influenced his passion for the game. He didn’t play basketball until ninth grade, starting out in track and field in the 100, 200 and 400-meter sprints. His father was his first coach with the San Antonio Rohawks in the Amateur Athletic Union and at first, he wasn’t allowed to shoot so he would develop into a complete player and fit in better with a more experienced roster.

Jordan’s father never left his side growing up. When his father was offered a promotion by the US Air Force, he declined it to stay near his son. “I really appreciated him doing that,” said Clarkson. “There are some people who grow up without fathers. There’s a reason why I’m here today. He shaped me into who I am.”

In his third playing year of college basketball, Clarkson’s father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his lower back. Clarkson became depressed and his performance took a dip. But as his father recovered, so did his game.  Now, Clarkson is entering his third season in the NBA and often described as one of the league’s rising stars. Clarkson’s attitude, work ethic, discipline and playing ability are the elements that make him a logical heir to the throne vacated by Kobe Bryant with his retirement from the Lakers.

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