FIBA World Cup

Chot says Gilas’ naturalized spot up for grabs as Brownlee, Clarkson each make strong case

Delfin Dioquino
Chot says Gilas’ naturalized spot up for grabs as Brownlee, Clarkson each make strong case

NATURALIZED PLAYERS. It is shaping up to be a tough choice between Jordan Clarkson (L) and Justin Brownlee.


Jordan Clarkson and Justin Brownlee both impress for Gilas Pilipinas during separate runs in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers

MANILA, Philippines – Jordan Clarkson has been the clear-cut choice as Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized player for the FIBA World Cup, but a pair of superb performances from Justin Brownlee has fans wondering whether the Barangay Ginebra import is a better fit.

Head coach Chot Reyes said the naturalized player spot is still up for grabs after Clarkson and Brownlee each made a strong case in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Clarkson averaged 25 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds in a loss to Lebanon and a win over Saudi Arabia in the fourth window last August.

Brownlee, meanwhile, put up 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists as the Philippines wrapped up the Asian Qualifiers with a rout of Lebanon and a narrow defeat to Jordan in the sixth and final window.

“There are no shoo-ins. That goes for all the local players and even the naturalized players,” said Reyes after the 91-90 heartbreaker to Jordan on Monday, February 27.

It is shaping up to be a tough decision between Clarkson and Brownlee.

Clarkson, after all, is a bona fide NBA talent who is playing his ninth season in league, even winning Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago.

The Filipino-American guard averages 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists for the Utah Jazz this season.

His availability, though, could play a factor on whether he makes the World Cup roster, considering Clarkson committed to join the national team just at least six weeks before the global hoops showdown.

That is only half of Gilas Pilipinas’ planned three-month preparation.

On the other hand, Brownlee is expected to be around for the coming months as he chases his seventh PBA championship with Barangay Ginebra in the season-ending Governors’ Cup.

After the PBA season, the national team will ramp up its World Cup buildup, starting in the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in May, with Brownlee likely to reinforce the Filipinos’ bid of reclaiming the gold medal.

Familiarity and chemistry have also not been an issue for Brownlee, who has been training with Reyes and Gilas Pilipinas since he started his naturalization last year.

But Reyes said Brownlee understands his place in the national team.

“As regards who the naturalized player is, Justin has always known that he makes himself available for whatever is required by the team,” said Reyes.

“If we need someone to play in specific tournaments, if we need someone to play as a backup for Jordan Clarkson, he is willing to play that role.” –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.