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MANILA, Philippines – Justin Brownlee is synonymous with Barangay Ginebra.
And the beloved import yearns to don the Gin Kings’ colors again after his three-month suspension prevented him from suiting up in an import conference for the first time since he started his PBA career with Ginebra.
“Man, I really can’t wait for that moment. I’m older now, I’m not a young guy,” said the 35-year-old Brownlee.
“I’m at the age where you never know. Things could happen, father time could happen. So every opportunity I get, I’m going to just continue to cherish it and just try to make the best out of it.”
Brownlee helped the Gin Kings end an eight-year championship drought when he hit the title-clinching shot in Game 6 of the 2016 Governors’ Cup finals against Meralco.
He has been a Ginebra fixture since, reinforcing the franchise in 10 straight import conferences and leading it to six PBA crowns as Brownlee tied Alaska icon Sean Chambers for most championships won by an import.
Individually, Brownlee earned three Best Import honors as he matched Bolts rival Allen Durham for second-most wins in PBA history behind the late legend Bobby Parks, who holds the record with seven.
Embracing the Philippines as his home, Brownlee became a naturalized Filipino last year and delivered a pair of gold medals for the country.
He helped Gilas Pilipinas reclaim its throne in the Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in May then steered the Nationals to their first Asian Games crown since 1962 in Hangzhou, China, in October.
Set for another tour of duty with the Gin Kings, Brownlee got forced to sit out the 2023-2024 Commissioner’s Cup after he failed a doping test in the Asian Games.
Fortunately for Brownlee, he started a voluntary suspension last November 9 – a decision that worked to his favor as FIBA retroactively counted the time he sat out for his three-month period of ineligibility that ended on February 9.
Local sports officials had said that the banned substance found in Brownlee’s doping test may have been from a medication he took after a foot surgery.
Although it will take months before Brownlee suits up for Ginebra, with the PBA expected to stage back-to-back Philippine Cup tournaments for its next two conferences, he is just glad to be available again.
“I can’t wait to put on that Ginebra jersey again and not only represent Ginebra, but it’s like you represent the Philippines playing for Ginebra. So it’s going to be a great day when it comes,” said Brownlee.
As Brownlee waits for his next PBA stint, he is set to play for the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, where they will face Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei on February 22 and 25, respectively. – Rappler.com