By WAYLON GALVEZ
Filipino basketball fans here and abroad celebrated the achievement of Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson after he was named the 2020-21 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
The 28-year-old Clarkson, who traces his Filipino roots in Pampanga, is the first Utah Jazz player to capture the Sixth Man award, beating teammate Joe Ingles and former MVP Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks.
This season, Clarkson averaged 18.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists off the bench in 68 games. He had 65 of the 100 first-place votes from 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio led the nation in celebrating the accomplishment of the Fil-Am who played for the Rain or Shine-backed Philippine team in the Asian Games three years ago.
“In his short and sweet stint with Gilas Pilipinas, Jordan Clarkson showed us not only his world-class talent,” said Panlilio in a statement as he worked tirelessly for the last minute inclusion of Clarkson during that 2018 Jakarta-Palembang meet in Indonesia.
That team under coach Yeng Guiao finished fifth overall despite lack of preparation.
Clarkson arrived in Indonesia on the day the national team won its first game against Kazakhstan.
In his first game against China, Clarkson scored 28 points as Gilas nearly won when Paul Lee missed a potential game winning triple at the buzzer that allowed the Chinese to escape with an 82-80 thriller.
Although efforts to have Clarkson back in the national team roster did not materialize prior to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, Panlilio said the SBP will continue to work hard to have him on the roster for the 2023 World Cup the country will co-host with Japan and Indonesia.
Clarkson is expected to play a key role for the Jazz, the top seeded team in the Western Conference of the NBA Playoffs, against No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
“Congratulations on winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, Jordan. The SBP and the entire Philippine basketball community is proud of you,” Panlilio said.
“Once Gilas, always Gilas.”
Former Gilas Pilipinas Chot Reyes also sent his appreciation on Clarkson in an Instagram post, saying: “Who would’ve thought that the person I was talking to on the phone in 2013 to check on your availability for #Gilas was going to be an NBA 6MOTY? Congrats and well-deserved.”
Rain or Shine owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que were likewise elated.
“Well-deserved win for Jordan,” said Yu.
On his part, Que said: “Jordan played tremendously this season so it was expected.”