Philippine basketball

Brownlee as Gilas Pilipinas’ first-choice naturalized player? Yes, says Chua

Delfin Dioquino

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Brownlee as Gilas Pilipinas’ first-choice naturalized player? Yes, says Chua

HERO. Justin Brownlee in action for Gilas Pilipinas against China in the 19th Asian Games.

PSC-POC Media Pool

Justin Brownlee steers Gilas Pilipinas to its first Asian Games crown since 1962 just a couple of months after helping the team reclaim the gold medal in the SEA Games

MANILA, Philippines – Clinching a long-awaited gold medal in the Asian Games may have installed Justin Brownlee as Gilas Pilipinas’ first-choice naturalized player for the future.

Team manager Alfrancis Chua vouched for Brownlee after the beloved Barangay Ginebra import steered the Nationals to their first men’s basketball crown in the Asian Games since 1962.

“Of course,” said Chua when asked if Brownlee deserves to represent the country in upcoming tournaments following his stellar run that helped the Philippines break through after decades of torment in the continental tiff.

“Justin is not only a good player. Justin makes his teammates better.”

Brownlee saved Gilas Pilipinas from embarrassment, starring in its bid of successfully reclaiming the crown in the Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in May.

In the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Brownlee played hero once more.

The Filipinos were down by as many as 20 points to defending champion China in the semifinals before Brownlee worked his magic en route to a miraculous 77-76 win.

Brownlee dropped 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter against a stunned Chinese side to propel the Philippines to the championship game for the first time since 1990.

Then in the finale, Brownlee delivered a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double on top of 5 assists and 2 steals to show the way in a sweet 70-60 payback victory over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and erstwhile unbeaten Jordan.

“He is a team player. He understands basketball, he knows when he needs to shoot the ball. Just look at the game against China, he knew when to take over,” said Chua.

Also a six-time champion with the most popular team in the PBA, Brownlee has been hailed a national hero by his legion of fans who want to see him more donning the national colors.

“They’re saying ‘Justin for president’ just because of their love for him. He does not ask for anything, he just wants to win,” said Chua.

Whether Brownlee will suit up for the national team again will be determined when it battles Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei in the opening window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in February next year.

Gilas Pilipinas will also vie for a Paris Games berth through the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July. –

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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.