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Cagers eye 5th versus Syrians

 

By NICK GIONGCO

 

JAKARTA – The Philippines’ game for fifth-place with Syria in Asian Games basketball on Friday night could very well be Jordan Clarkson’s final appearance for the team.

Clarkson, the Cleveland Cavalier starter, will suit up for the last time when the Filipinos face the Syrians at 6:30 pm (7:30 pm in Manila) at the 7,100-seat Istora Gelora Bung Karno.

Whether the 6-foot-5 Clarkson can don the national jersey in the future is uncertain since he is fully committed to play in the NBA, whose schedule practically consumes three-fourths of the year.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) officials had attempted to have him when the Philippines resumes its campaign in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers but the NBA’s directive was for the 26-year-old shooting guard to play only in Indonesia.

National head coach Yeng Guiao is expected to push his players against the Syrian, who earned the right to meet the Filipinos after outlasting Indonesia, 76-66, Tuesday night.

The Philippines punched a ticket to play in the showdown for fifth spot after toppling Japan, 113-80.

Clarkson missed the Philippines’ opening game blowout of Kazakhstan and made his debut against China when he opened fire with 28 points, showing everyone the different between a legit NBA starter from a second-stringer.

Though the Philippines got tripped by China, 82-80, Clarkson was astounding nonetheless with the Asian heavyweights heaving a sigh of relief that his stint is going to be just short-lived.

Against Korea, which outlasted the Philippines, 91-82, in the quarterfinals, Clarkson torched the nets anew with 25. Against Japan, Clarkson had 22.

Guiao wants the Syria game as a going-away present for Clarkson, who has been recalled to return to the Cavs training camp.

In fact, Clarkson will try to find the next available flight back to the US following the Syria game.

As for Guiao, practice for the FIBA WC starts Monday as the team is aching to leave for Manila the soonest.

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