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Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson gets a hero’s welcome in the Philippines ahead of World Cup

Clarkson is one of five Jazzmen who will take part in the FIBA World Cup later this month.

Five Utah Jazz players are gearing up for the 2023 FIBA World Cup from Aug. 25 through Sept. 10.

Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk and Simone Fontecchio are all suiting up for their respective countries.

Here’s a look at each as exhibition games in preparation for the tournament have started:

Jordan Clarkson

Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson received a hero’s welcome as he arrived in Manila, Philippines, on Monday evening to prepare with Gilas Pilipinas for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Upon arrival, Clarkson met Miss Philippines Michelle Dee, who’s set to compete at November’s Miss Universe competition in El Salvador. He also interacted with fans and posed with Gilas Pilipinas, President Al Panlilio and Chairman Emeritus Manny Pangilinan.

Clarkson, the lone active NBA player on Philippines’ roster, is making his third international appearance, also leading the team at the 2018 Asian Games and the World Cup Asian Qualifiers in 2022. ”I think we got a good chance to do some things,” he told reporters after his arrival.

Clarkson started 61 games for the Jazz last season, averaging 20.8 points and a team-leading 4.4 assists per game. Last month, he signed a three-year contract extension worth $55 million.

The 31-year-old guard will join the Philippines for friendlies against Montenegro and Mexico before facing off against Group A opponents Angola, Dominican Republic and Jazz teammate Simone Fontecchio and Italy starting Aug. 25.

Walker Kessler

Jazz second-year center Walker Kessler entered for four minutes late in the fourth quarter of Team USA’s 117-74 exhibition win over Puerto Rico on Monday night. He was the last eligible player to enter for USA. Kessler, an All-Rookie First Team selection last season, scored five points and grabbed three rebounds in his first senior national team appearance. The 7-footer averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in 2022-23.

The 22rd overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft will look for more playing time — and maybe how to spin a basketball — in the lead up to the World Cup, with exhibition games in Malaga, Spain, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, before taking on Group C competitors Jordan, Greece and New Zealand starting Aug. 26.

Lauri Markkanen

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen took a break from the traditional duties of fulfilling his mandatory military service to lead Finland to a 81-79 exhibition win over Lithuania on Friday.

The 2023 NBA All-Star with a fresh buzz cut instead of his usual long curls, poured in 24 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in front of an all-time record 13,054 fans for his home country.

He also had a highlight moment with a reverse baseline dunk over New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas in the second quarter.

Markkanen and Finland kick off the World Cup against Group E opponents Australia, Japan and Germany starting Aug. 25.

Kelly Olynyk

Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk is finally set to make his World Cup debut after missing the 2019 contest due to a knee injury.

Olynyk, a mainstay on Canada’s recent national teams, is expected to play a large role on a star-studded lineup that features NBA star guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray, along with other established NBA players Lu Dort, RJ Barrett and Dillon Brooks. Olynyk will also reunite with EuroLeague star Kevin Pangos, who was his teammate at Gonzaga from 2011-13.

The former first-round pick started 68 games and averaged 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season. Canada and Olynyk will participate in Group H against Latvia, Lebanon and France starting Aug. 25, with exhibition games starting Aug. 9 against Germany.

Simone Fontecchio

Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio is the lone active NBA player on Italy’s roster for the World Cup.

Fontecchio led Italy to a 90-89 exhibition win in overtime over Turkey on Friday with 21 points and three rebounds. In World Cup qualifying, Fontecchio led the Italians averaging 21 points and five rebounds. He will also lead his team against Clarkson and the Philippines on Aug. 29.

The 27-year-old forward averaged 6.3 points per game in 52 games with the Jazz last season after signing a two-year deal from Europe.