Fight very much alive in Gilas as it tries to keep Olympic hopes up

Jordan Clarkson Gilas Fiba World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas guard Jordan Clarkson against Italy in the Fiba World Cup. -MARLO CUETO/

Jordan Clarkson was not interested in crunching the math to determine Gilas Pilipinas’ next opponents in the 2023 Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.

He knows what the coming games mean to the national squad.

“We’re strong mentally and we’re gonna [get] it together and try to get these [next] two [games]. We know what it means and what it means for the country,” he said on the heels of a 90-83 loss to Italy at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday night.

Puerto Rico, South Sudan and regional powerhouse China are still trying to gain passage into the second round as of press time.

Two of those three teams are going to slide into the crossover classification phase that begins Thursday and will get in the way of a reeling Gilas side hoping to rebound from a slump and pull a Paris Olympics berth out of what has been a forgettable homestand in the World Cup thus far.

Clarkson’s defiant spirit comes from how Gilas Pilipinas has performed in its three losing stands in this World Cup.

“We haven’t really felt like we’ve been out of any games. And we [kept on] fighting,” he said. “This team is strong. We fight. We ain’t giving up throughout the whole game.”

Clarkson’s optimism is shared by his teammates.

“We still got two games. So we can’t put our heads down too much. [We need to] recover from this [loss to Italy]. [We’re] out of contention but again, two more games. We can’t take [those] lightly,” guard Kiefer Ravena said.

“I think we’re going to play the way we always play,” guard Rhenz Abando added. “We’re going to do our best in the next games. We’re still hoping to get to the Olympics.”

That indomitable spirit will come in handy for Gilas, especially if the race for that Asian quota somehow resets.

Some advantage

A China relegation to the classification phase would mean that Japan, which also bombed out of contention in Group E, will remain the only Asian squad to have registered a victory. That also leaves Jordan, Iran and Lebanon as the other winless Asian teams looking to rack up victories in the consolation round.

“South Sudan—physical athletic team. Watched them a few games. [Their] coaching is good as well. I know Luol Deng and how he has put a program together over there. They’ve got another young player, Wenyen Gabriel over there that’s athletic, runs the floor well,” Clarkson said.

“China as well. Very familiar with that team. Kyle Anderson joining them. Their big guy (Zhou Qi). Two really good teams. We got to come out here, put it together and compete and win. That’s what we want to do. We’re not coming out here trying to lose but we know these two teams are good. They’ve been put together well with size and everything, so we’re ready to compete and fight,” he added.

Gilas will be enjoying some sort of advantage in the contest on Thursday 8 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum having had more rest than South Sudan, Puerto Rico and China.

But Clarkson promised that Gilas won’t rely on just that.

“We’ll leave everything out on the floor,” he said.

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