Who can help Clarkson get Philippines to the Second Round?

MANILA (Philippines) – The Philippines’ opening night 87-81 loss to Dominican Republic exposed a major issue for the host team: namely who can pick up the slack when Jordan Clarkson can’t perform to help get the team to the Second Round.

Head coach Chot Reyes is still trying to answer that question with a crucial match-up coming up against Angola in game two of their World Cup campaign.

Clarkson did more than his part against the Dominicans, pouring in 28 points and adding 7 rebounds and 7 assists as he fought to keep Philippines close in the final minutes of the game. But the Utah Jazz star fouled out with 3:32 minutes to play and his team down just 79-76. The host nation could not execute enough down the stretch and ended up losing.

“It wasn’t good enough for us. JC (Clarkson) fouled out in the last few minutes and that hurt,” said Philippines guard Scottie Thompson, who ended up picking up 5 points and and 4 assists.

Gilas need continued production from June Mar Fajardo and Dwight Ramos

June Mar Fajardo was the second-best scorer with 16 points off the bench as he made all five of his field goal attempts and 6-of-8 free throws. The next top scorer was Dwight Ramos with 13 points.

Ramos might be one of the top answers as to who can help Clarkson get to the Second Round. The 24-year-old averaged 13.4 points in the Asian Qualifiers, including four games of 17 points of more. None of those performances, however, came in his final five appearances.  Fajardo for his part has long been a solid veteran but it will be hard for him to repeat his near perfect night.

Kai Sotto (No. 11) will need to forget his World Cup debut

Kai Sotto collected 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in his four Qualifiers games and it was perceived by many that he could be one of Clarkson’s major helpers. But Sotto played only 73 seconds against Dominican Republic, twice being beaten to the basket by Karl-Anthony Towns and picking up two fouls late in the first quarter before never returning to the game. Reyes insisted Sotto’s tournament is not over and Gilas fans will see more of him.

Thompson might be another option, coming off a great season as he won the domestic PBA title and the former league MVP was named an All-Star for the fifth time. Thompson has already turned 30 though, and he showed some struggles against the Dominicans with 5 turnovers in fewer than 20 minutes.

AJ Edu

One other possibility might be 23-year-old big man AJ Edu, who picked up 7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks and did his best to slow down Towns. Edu made all three of his field goal attempts and maybe Reyes incorporates him more into the offense.

One thing is certain, Jordan Clarkson will need help.



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