‘We want to play against the best’: Brownlee embraces daunting task in FIBA OQT

Delfin Dioquino

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‘We want to play against the best’: Brownlee embraces daunting task in FIBA OQT

ALL SMILES. Justin Brownlee (32) and Kai Sotto (11) in action for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2024 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.


'We're definitely going in there to win,' says Justin Brownlee as Gilas Pilipinas vies for a Paris Games berth in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, battling Latvia and Georgia in the group stage

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas needs to go through the eye of the needle if it wants to end a decades-long absence in the Olympics.

For Justin Brownlee, it is supposed to be like that.

The beloved naturalized player embraced the daunting task that awaits the Nationals in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be staged in Riga, Latvia, from July 2 to 7 as they go up against a pair of top 25 squads.

Bunched in Group A with the Philippines are world No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia.

“It is going to be very tough for us but that is why we’re here. We want to play against the best in the world, and of course, if you want to be in the Olympics and qualify, you got to play with the best in the world,” Brownlee said.

“I think it is going to be a great experience for us and we’re definitely not going to take it lightly. We’re definitely going in there to win.”

Brownlee and the national team got a taste of the level of competition that is expected in the OQT as they tangled with world No. 15 Poland and No. 24 Turkey in a pair of tuneup games.

Although the Filipinos came out winless in those friendlies, they showed that they can go toe-to-toe with European squads.

Gilas Pilipinas gave the Turkish a scare before absorbing an 84-73 loss then fell short of a massive upset against a Polish side bolstered by NBA player Jeremy Sochan of the San Antonio Spurs in a nail-biting 82-80 defeat.

Foes in the OQT pose a tougher challenge.

Latvia – bannered by Charlotte Hornets forward Davis Bertains and former NBA players Rodion Kurucs and Dairis Bertans – aims to bank on its home advantage in its bid to reach the Olympics for the first time since 1936.

Meanwhile, Georgia shoots for a maiden Olympic appearance behind NBA players Goga Bitadze of the Orlando Magic and Sandro Mamukelashvili of the Spurs.

Brownlee, though, feels the Philippines is up to the task as it seeks to send a basketball team to the Olympics for the first time since 1972.

“No matter if they’re ranked higher than us, they put on their shoes just like we put on our shoes,” said Brownlee, who averaged 25.5 points and 4 rebounds against Turkey and Poland.

“We come in to represent the country in the right way, in the best way we can.” –

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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.