NBA star Jordan Clarkson gets Hong Kong kids excited about basketball

NBA star Jordan Clarkson gets Hong Kong kids excited about basketball

LA Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson shares some of the skills he's passing on to Hongkongers with hoop dreams


A strong work ethic is a big part of Lakers' star Jordan Clarkson's success.
A strong work ethic is a big part of Lakers' star Jordan Clarkson's success.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Jordan Clarkson of the LA Lakers is not what you would expect from an up-and-coming pro basketball player. Having breakfast in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, dressed in casual sportswear, he looks like someone you would run into on the street.

Clarkson is in Hong Kong, along with his personal trainer, Drew Hanlen, to teach at a basketball camp hosted by Sports 360, an organisation that promotes sport in Hong Kong. They hope to spread basketball knowledge and the love of the game to local youngsters.

Currently a point guard for the Lakers, the 23-year-old Clarkson was selected for the NBA All-Rookie First Team (2014-2015) and was the Rookie of the Month for March 2015. But despite these achievements, he is staying humble.

"I want to improve and do my own thing, not just compare myself to other players," Clarkson says quietly, with no sign of arrogance.

Clarkson didn't play basketball seriously until his first year at university. Before that, he was a sprinter, and only played basketball for fun with friends.

College basketball is very serious in the US, but the move to the NBA was still a huge learning experience for him. "The biggest change is the speed of the game, the physicality of it," he says.

And while Clarkson agrees that playing for the Lakers sounds impressive, he's not a star-struck fanboy. He refers to his teammates casually, like co-workers instead of the superstars you see on TV.

"Kobe [Bryant] is intense. He wants to win. He's also the toughest person I ever had to guard. Even in practice he is still the toughest." And Jeremy Lin "was there with me the whole year. He's a good teammate and a good person."

A strong work ethic is a big part of Clarkson's success. Hanlen says: "Jordan earned all his success through determination and relentlessness. Stay hungry and focus on yourself rather than the comments of others."

Clarkson's own work methods begin with his approach to the game. "I don't have a single role model. Nick Young, Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis - they are all people I look at. I pinpoint a new thing to work on every week. Post moves, reads, passing, dribbling," he says, referring to some key skills.

When it comes to improving your own game, Clarkson emphasises hard work. "You put the time in, grab a couple guys and get rebounds and shots in."

Apart from being dedicated, you also have to be smart. "Know yourself," he says. "Focus on what you're good at."

So if you're a shooter, practice your three-point shots. Or if you can drive to the net, work on your dribbling and getting the ball to the basket. This is the type of wisdom Clarkson will be passing on to local youngsters at the camp.

"I just hope the kids will walk away with something. You can't teach everything in four days," he says, adding that the most important thing he can pass on is the spirit of competitiveness. "Practise like you play: on the court, your friends aren't your friends."

Clarkson has been impressed by the local student athletes. "Students at 360 Camp work very hard, show great discipline, and are very coachable. There seems to be a genuine hunger and desire within each person to get better. They ask questions," he says.

"The students just need to continue their commitment to the game. The hardest and most consistent workers will reach their full potential."

Tim Fuller, Clarkson's college coach who is also in Hong Kong, had some advice for young locals: "Stay motivated, no matter what anyone says, and put in the work."

Clarkson adds: "Find new avenues to motivate yourself. Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
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