TAIPEI - After being around the Gilas Pilipinas program for a week or so, Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson has assured Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) officials he's 'all in' as far as the national team program is concerned and he's in it for the long term.
The Fil-American NBA player made the assurance after a three-hour dinner meeting with SBP vice-chairman Ricky Vargas and former PBA chairman Pato Gregorio, just an hour after Gilas suffered its first loss in the 37th Jones Cup, 70-82, at the hands of South Korea in a game which Clarkson witnessed from behind the Philippine bench.
"Those were his words, he's all in," said Vargas, who flew in from Hong Kong on Monday with Gregorio in time to watch the match against the Koreans.
Gregorio said it was the first time they got to sit down for a long talk with Clarkson and business manager Tim Fuller since they flew in last week, adding he and Vargas were heartened not only by his level of commitment to the Philippine team but also his vision for Gilas.
"This is not a one-shot deal. He's not looking at this as a short-term thing," said Vargas.
Gregorio added that the 6-5 guard out of Missouri, whose mother Annette Tallou traces her roots to Angeles City in Pampanga, talked extensively about his desire not only to be part of this current Gilas batch but also future national teams that will aim to get to the Olympic Games.
"He was telling us that he wants to play for the Philippines in the 2016, 2020 and 2024 Olympics," said Vargas. "And he has a clear vision what he wants to see with the Philippine team.
Gregorio added: 'Imagine a 23-year-old telling us about his clear vision for the Philippine team."
All the while, Gregorio said Clarkson talked of how 'we Filipinos' can do in the international basketball scene, mentioning the programs put in place by world powers Argentina and Lithuania.
Although they were pleased to hear about Clarkson's long-term commitment, Vargas assured the SBP is still doing its best to get the Lakers sophomore on board for the Gilas team competing in the 2015 Fiba Asia championship in Changsha, China.
The tournament serving as a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics is set for September 23 to October 3 and Vargas said they are taking steps to clear hurdles with Fiba as far as Clarkson's eligibility is concerned and with the Lakers for his clearance.