Gilas Pilipinas may have crashed out of the 2023 Fiba World Cup contention, but the Philippines still managed to gain a fan in Italy’s animated head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco.
Even before lauding the Azzurri for their 90-83 win over the hosts, Pozzecco tipped his hat to Gilas in the post-game presser on Tuesday night.
“First of all, I want to congratulate the coach of the Philippines, its staff, and all the players. You did an amazing job today, but not just today,” he said.
“You’re to be proud of your players. You lost three games but you [fought] in all of those games, and so you have to be really proud of all the guys,” he went on.
Gilas sputtered against Karl-Anthony Towns and the Dominican Republic, 87-81, last Friday and then came up short against Bruno Fernando and Angola, 80-70, last Sunday.
The Philippines actually even led the World No. 10 Italians by the end of the first quarter and would’ve kept things close if not for Marco Spissu, Alessandro Pajola and Giampaolo Ricci catching fire from deep.
Pozzecco, a member of the Italian team that won the silver in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, was particularly impressed with Jordan Clarkson, Gilas’ naturalized ace whom he believes typified fight in the Philippines’ losing stands.
“Clarkson is a really huge star but he really has an amazing behavior. He surprised me. Not because he’s a star but because I knew—because he plays with (Simone) Fontecchio and I went to Utah to watch them play,” he said.
“He plays with emotion. With heart, like he was really involved. After the first game, he was on the bench, and he was really sad,” he went on. “And so, congratulations still to you guys.”
Clarkson, who has been averaging 24 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists in this World Cup, said he was simply playing out of reverence for the Philippines.
“I’m super passionate about it that’s why I came here,” he said in a television interview just before heading for the team’s dugout on Tuesday.
“I didn’t come out and put some weak effort out. I gave all I could just out of respect for the country, for my family, and the coaching here,” he said.
“Definitely didn’t come out how we wanted it to, but I know I left everything I could.”
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