Cone further convinced Brownlee ‘should be in the NBA’ with stellar FIBA OQT play

Delfin Dioquino

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Cone further convinced Brownlee ‘should be in the NBA’ with stellar FIBA OQT play

LEFTY LAYUP. Justin Brownlee in action for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.


'Somebody in the NBA missed out on this guy,' says Tim Cone as Justin Brownlee propels Gilas Pilipinas to the semifinals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

MANILA, Philippines – As much as Tim Cone feels lucky to have Justin Brownlee for Gilas Pilipinas and Barangay Ginebra, a part of him believes the beloved naturalized player deserves to be someplace else.

For Cone, Brownlee should be in the NBA as the three-time PBA Best Import continues to prove his mettle following a pair of stellar performances in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia.

Largely thanks to Brownlee, the Philippines exceeded expectations and advanced to the semifinals – two wins away from ending a 52-year absence in Olympic basketball.

“I’ve said this before, somebody in the NBA missed out on this guy. Somebody in the NBA missed out. They weren’t on the ball. They should have seen this guy. He never should have been in the Philippines,” said Cone.

“He should be in the NBA.”

Brownlee, who played college basketball for St. John’s University in the US NCAA, went unpicked in the 2011 NBA Draft.

He stayed on the NBA radar by seeing action in the G League and even signed a contract with the New York Knicks at the start of the 2013-2014 season but got waived immediately after.

Opting to take his act overseas, Brownlee played in Italy and France before he found his way to the PBA as the Gin Kings brought him in as a replacement for original Ginebra import Paul Harris in the 2016 Governors’ Cup.

He showed he’s the right man for the job, propelling the Gin Kings to their first championship in eight years as Cone won his maiden title with Ginebra.

Brownlee returned to reinforce the Gin Kings for each of the next nine import conferences and helped the franchise capture five more crowns, with his body of work in the PBA making a top choice for a naturalized player.

When he officially became a Filipino, Brownlee made an immediate impact as he powered the Philippines in reclaiming the Southeast Asian Games throne and winning the Asian Games title last year for the first time since 1962.

Although now 36 years old, Brownlee remains a force, holding his own against higher-ranked teams in the OQT featuring NBA talent.

He netted 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists as the Philippines pulled off an 89-80 upset of world No. 6 Latvia, a team bannered by Charlotte Hornets forward Davis Bertans and former NBA players Rodions Kurucs and Dairis Bertans.

Flirting with a triple-double anew, Brownlee posted 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in a 96-94 loss to 23rd-ranked Georgia led by Goga Bitadze of the Orlando Magic and Sandro Mamukelashvili of the San Antonio Spurs.

“He’s a big-moment guy. He plays huge in big moments. He’s proven that over and over again. What he’s doing here in this tournament is no surprise whatsoever to what we’ve seen throughout his career in the Philippines,” said Cone.

“He’s dominant there. He executes to a tee and he’s always engaged. When he’s aggressive, there’s just nobody, nobody better than him.”

It is a big plus that Brownlee is revered by his teammates, with Kai Sotto even calling him the “Michael Jordan of Philippine basketball.”

“What makes Justin special is No. 1, he’s absolutely the best teammate I’ve ever seen throughout my coaching. He’s just a tremendous teammate,” said Cone.

“And No. 2, he has that rare skill that – in any team he plays for – he makes the players around him better. They play at a higher level wherever Justin goes.” –

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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.