Apr 30, 2021

The bond that ties Norwood and Clarkson

GABE Norwood had NBA star Jordan Clarkson for a teammate during their stint with Gilas Pilipinas in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.

But not too many know, the two go a long way, back during Clarkson's college days at Missouri in the NCAA Division 1 Southeastern Conference (SEC).

It was through another friend, in Chris Ross, who told Norwood about the future NBA star as the veteran San Miguel point guard and Clarkson are acquaintances since both came from the San Antonio area.

Norwood, 35, describes Clarkson as 'pretty chill and pretty laidback' despite his status as one of the top guns of the Utah Jazz.

"Off the court, he's chill, likes to joke. Like any of us, he's just another one of the guys," said the Rain or Shine Fil-Am guard of the 28-year-old Clarkson, the frontrunner for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award, when both of them appeared separately in the program The Game.

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It was actually a pair of Kobe shoes (Nike Kobe 9 EM Philippines) that really sealed the bond between the two as Norwood wanted Clarkson to wear the Philippine edition of the sneaker that came out in 2014.

Norwood managed to give Clarkson the shoe apparel through a common friend.

"When he declared for the Draft, he just happened to be training with my college teammate, my roommate, one of my best friends growing up, in New York City, getting ready for the Draft. That's how I sent the shoes out to him," said the 12-year Gilas Pilipinas veteran.

But they wouldn't get to play together until Clarkson came on board the national team for the first time during the Asiad in Indonesia where the NBA player served as Gilas' naturalized player.

Not only did Norwood play as big brother to Clarkson, he was also his translator.

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"Sometimes, we'd speak Tagalog in some of the pre-game stuff and I wouldn't know what's going on, so he (Norwood) was helping me kind of get situated in that part and introducing me to the guys, making me feel comfortable," recalled Clarkson, a second round pick of the Washington Wizards in the 2014 draft, but would play for the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers prior to landing with the Jazz in 2019.

"It's always good knowing somebody when you're in a group of good people. Once I got to know everybody else, it just felt like love."

Norwood acknowledges how a big help Clarkson would be in the national team's future international campaign especially if he's finally allowed to play as a local by FIBA.

"The way he's playing right now, if he continues to get better, he's going to put us on a whole 'nother level in terms of international play, especially in Asia," said Norwood. "Internationally, I think he just ups everybody's game. With the young talent that we have, that's all those guys need - a little push." (RG)