Here we are two weeks to the NBA Draft, and one player who is rising up the boards is Jordan Clarkson, 6-5 guard from Missouri. Clarkson has quietly moved himself into the first round conversation and has a draft window from from mid-first round to the early second round.
After wowing people at the NBA Draft Combine, Clarkson reminded people once again of one of the top guard prospects in the class. It’s not surprising to his trainer Jay Hernandez, who has worked with Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris and Michael Carter-Williams, among other stars.
“Jordan is a real talent. His combination of skills, size and athleticism are as good as you will see in a PG in this Draft. He’s willing to put in the work and he is willing to listen,” Hernandez said. “That mixture, with his natural gifts, will allow him to have a long run in the NBA, at arguably the toughest position.”
Clarkson’s season took a noticeable dip once he learned that his hero, his father Mike, was diagnosed with cancer. The second half of the season, Clarkson struggled in shooting the basketball and his three-point shooting percentage tanked, concerning scouts about his ability to stretch the defense on the next level. Clarkson transitioned to point guard at Missouri after having played the position some at Tulsa.
He still remained the Tigers’ best option to score and that came at the expense of his assist-to-turnover ratio. Most scouts see him as a combo guard more than a true point guard.
We caught up with Clarkson to get some insight to what makes this unheralded prospect from San Antonio tick.
SLAM: When did you start to think you could be pretty good?
Jordan Clarkson: After the sit-out year at Missouri, and practicing every day. Then, that summer going to Chris Paul Camp and performing against the other college guys.
SLAM: Tell us about the adjustment from playing at Tulsa to Missouri.
JC: One of my reasons for transferring was to play in a BCS conference—in the SEC. I felt I developed my game and did well. (Clarkson was named Second-Team All-SEC.—Ed.)
SLAM: This was an interesting season at Missouri, which started with a lot of high hopes and ended abruptly.
JC: We had a decent year, started out with high expectations. Unfortunately we had our ups and downs, we hit bumps in the road, between off-the-court issues with some players and family. In the end, I was proud about how we did considering the adversity we dealt with.
SLAM: Your family has dealt with health issues recently. How have you managed to stay focused?
JC: You use basketball as an outlet and try not to let that stuff affect you on the floor. I took it in stride. My dad is back home now and doing good. His therapy started and he’s getting back to walking. I want to do this for him. My dad is my hero. When my brother and I were younger, anything he could do for us in our home situation, he did. He’s the real motivation to me, I’m trying to do this for him and my family.
SLAM: The decision to leave Missouri and enter the Draft, what was the process?
JC: It was a tough decision leaving Missouri. I spoke with my mom and the rest of my family and I felt like I was ready to take the step to the next level. My work ethic is never going to change; I have a different hunger than most of those guys. I have a chip on my shoulder any time on the court, by myself or at a workout. I try to go hard. I know I wasn’t heavily recruited or played in big all-star games. I feel I have to prove myself to people every time out on the court.
SLAM: What are you doing to prepare for the Draft?
JC: Working real hard, out in Long Island with Jay Hernandez from Pro Hoops. I’m working every day in the gym, twice per day.
SLAM: What do you think you can do on the floor for an NBA team?
JC: I bring defensive versatility. I can guard three positions, anyone on the perimeter. I can score the basketball; either to the basket, through my mid-range game or beyond the arc. I’m able to make my teammates better. I can create shots for them.
SLAM: What areas of your game have you been working on since leaving school?
JC: Keeping my jump shot consistent. Critics had felt I was right hand dominant—I can go left now. I’m working hard on improving my left hand finishing moves.
SLAM: What position are you hoping to play at the next level?
JC: I’m a point guard, first and foremost. I played it last season and some at Tulsa, but I can score the basketball, so I’m comfortable playing off the ball.
SLAM: People question your three-point shooting ability (28 percent this season). Is that fair?
JC: To a certain extent. I shot it well at Tulsa, I just had an off year shooting this season at Missouri. I had some mechanical issues that developed with my release and my hips. I have watched a lot of film after the season to improve it. I’m a scorer first and a shooter second.
SLAM: Any player that you try to emulate your game after?
JC: I watch a lot of Russell Westbrook, George Hill, Devin Harris, Chris Paul and take a little from each.
SLAM: Finish this sentence: Your coach at Missouri, Frank Haith, is…
JC: Great guy, great coach. I talked a lot to him throughout the season. He was always there for me. He knew that I was going through a tough time and he helped me through it.
SLAM: Toughest player you have played against?
JC: Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic. His size and ability to make shots.
SLAM: Best player you have played with?
JC: Andre Roberson, Thunder…Colorado. My high school teammate. He was a great teammate, he did everything. He can score the ball and he is a rebound machine.
SLAM: What is your message for those trying to follow in your footsteps?
JC: Work hard every day. Get in the gym, accept criticism and use it as motivation.
SLAM: Anything else you want people to know about you?
JC: I’m part Filipino and I’m looking to be the first or one of the first Filipino-Americans to play in the NBA. I know the country is backing me. I hope to be able to visit there in the future.
SLAM: What’s your get-hype song?
JC: “They Don’t Love You No More” by DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Jay Z.
SLAM: Which teams have you worked out with so far?
JC: Miami and Chicago so far, with more upcoming.