MANILA, Philippines – After all the drama that unfolded just to get Filipino-American NBA player Jordan Clarkson to play for the national basketball team, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) said a "bigger" challenge lies ahead in the 2018 Asian Games.
Clarkson, the Cleveland Cavaliers guard who was granted a "one-time exception" by the NBA, will arrive in Jakarta on Thursday, August 16, and serve as the Philippine flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies on Saturday, August 18. (LOOK: NBA grants Jordan Clarkson 'one-time exception)
The 26-year-old player is expected to debut against China on Tuesday, August 21. (READ: Jordan Clarkson cleared for 2018 Asian Games)
"[W]e are glad that this challenge has been hurdled. But the bigger one is ahead of us," POC president Ricky Vargas said in a statement. "We have over 200 other athletes from various sports who need our prayers and encouragement."
"As we speak, many of them are already in the battlefield. They face stiff opposition in a foreign land. Let's make them realize we are behind all of them at all times," added Vargas.
The spotlight has been focused on the Philippine men's basketball team, which will kick off the country's campaign versus Kazakhstan at 10 am on Thursday, August 16. (READ: Jordan Clarkson to be PH 2018 Asian Games flag-bearer)
Although Clarkson won't get to suit up yet as he arrives on the same day, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said the NBA's decision to clear the Cavs player "will no doubt cheer the hearts of Filipinos here and all over the world."
In a joint statement, the SBP and the NBA also said they were "able to come together" after "continued communication" over the past days.
"The SBP and the NBA have a longstanding relationship of working together to grow the game of basketball in the Philippines, and we share in the excitement of fans across the country and wish Gilas Pilipinas the very best in Indonesia," the statement said.
Vargas also thanked SBP chairmain emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, and the PBA for working with the POC and the SBP, noting they all "got together and never gave up" to get Clarkson on board.
The NBA had initially turned down the Philippines' request to tap Clarkson in the continental meet, citing an agreement with FIBA that stipulates that the league's players can only participate in the Olympics, FIBA Basketball World Cup and Continental Cup competitions.
But the NBA reversed its decision, noting in a statement released on August 15, Wednesday, that the said rule wasn't properly communicated.