MANILA, Philippines -- Much has been said of what Jordan Clarkson contributes to Gilas Pilipinas on the court, with an official of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas saying that the Filipino-American guard is a cut above the rest.
Four years after playing for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games, Clarkson made his FIBA debut in the fourth window of the World Cup Asian qualifiers. In two games against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the Utah Jazz guard averaged 25 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds.
"He's not just one cut above the rest, if I may say so without downplaying the ability of our players. Iba ang kilos ni Jordan. 'Yung quick step niya, 'yung ball-handling ability niya, and of course, his shooting, inside and out, is really admirable," SBP executive director and spokesperson Sonny Barrios previously said of Clarkson.
But for Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes, Clarkson's value extends beyond the hardwood. He spoke proudly of the guard's leadership qualities after their triumph over Saudi Arabia on Monday night, where Clarkson had 23 points in an 84-46 win.
"You see his game on the floor," said Reyes. "But what really sets him apart is his work ethic outside, behind the scenes."
Clarkson arrived in Manila on August 19 and was in practice not even 24 hours later. According to Reyes, the guard "never missed a practice or a film session" during his time with the team.
"[He was] never late," the coach said. "In fact, he has a provision in his contract where he cannot do two practices a day, but he still went on and practiced when we had to have two practices. He came out and practiced twice."
"I don't know if I should say that in public but I think that's very, very important for a team that he's just one of the guys, he's always with us," he added. "He doesn't excuse himself."
Clarkson's work ethic and his humility made life easier for the Gilas coaches, said Reyes.
"For me, that's leadership," he stressed.
It helps that Clarkson genuinely got along with his Gilas teammates. The guard said that he "vibed" with everybody on the team, and described the atmosphere in the squad as "free flowing."
"You'll see us having a good time the majority of the time at practice," he said. "We know when to lock in when it's serious. But I think everybody has a great vibe and free flowing and fun."