MANILA, Philippines – The Los Angeles Lakers on Monday formally introduced Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson at their practice facility, with the former Missouri Tiger expressing his eagerness to prove himself after dropping to the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft.
Clarkson, who was acquired with the 46th overall pick via the Washington Wizards, was presented with his No. 5 jersey.
Clarkson is only the third player with Filipino heritage to make it to the NBA, following Ray Townsend in 1978 and Ricardo Brown in 1979.
"I'm just happy for the opportunity to come here and have an opportunity to play," Clarkson told reporters. "It's just a relaxing feeling. I'm gonna work hard."
"It's a blessing (to be here). (The Lakers are) one of the most established franchises in the league, if not the most. It's a blessing," he added.
Clarkson also revealed that he has a "chip on his shoulder" after falling to the second round of the draft, as he was initially projected to be a mid-first round pick.
"I felt like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best," said Clarkson. "But falling out of the first round and being selected in the second, the number really doesn’t matter where you get drafted. It's about the fit."
When asked if the teams who passed up on him in the draft will regret their choice, Clarkson said: "Yes, sir."
"I'm coming here and I'm going to work hard and try to be the best player I can be. It's just fuel to my fire," he said.
Clarkson also briefly spoke of his Filipino roots. His mother was born in Angeles City, Pampanga, although he was born in the United States and grew up in Texas.
"All those guys in the Philippines are hitting me up (on Twitter and Instagram)," Clarkson said in a one-on-one interview with Lakers reporter Mike Trudell. "It's an exciting moment for them, as well as for myself and my family."
"Knowing that there's a country backing me as well, it’s an exciting feeling," he said.
He has not visited the country, but was in contact with the Philippine national team.
"I'm trying to go visit soon," Clarkson said, adding that he still eats some Filipino food. "Lumpia, that's my go-to."
Playing with Kobe
The Lakers' roster is not yet set, as the franchise is still seeing how the free agency period will shake out. For now, Clarkson will get to play with fellow rookie Julius Randle as well as some of the Lakers' other young players in the Las Vegas Summer League this month.
But if things go his way, Clarkson will have a chance to play with future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant, a prospect that thrills the young guard.
"I've heard a lot about Kobe and how he is. He's a winner, so being able to watch him and learn from him, it will be a great opportunity," said Clarkson. "I just heard that he's really intense, but he's a winner, he's proven that. So you just gotta follow in his footsteps."
Clarkson believes he brings a lot to the table as a player thanks to his versatility. Though he is primarily a point guard, his size allows him to play shooting guard as well and he can defend up to the small forward position.
"I'm versatile on defense, I'm able to guard ones, twos, to threes. I'm able to score the ball, I'm a good shot-maker," Clarkson said. "I’m a good playmaker, and I'm able to get shots for my teammates and create plays."
Clarkson however knows that there are still aspects of his game that he needs to work on.
"My shot consistency, really, that's an area where I feel like I can improve. Continue with my ball-handling and stuff, and I feel like the rest of the game is gonna come along," he said.
"It's one step at a time," he added. "One day at a time for me. I'm just coming here, working hard, and proving myself."
Clarkson played for two collegiate seasons in Tulsa, then sat out a year after transferring to Missouri. He averaged 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in his lone season as a Tiger.
Clarkson will play his first Summer League game on July 11, when the Lakers take on the Toronto Raptors in Las Vegas. -- With a report from Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News North America