Newsome hopes to finally win title with Black, whose career arc Brownlee hopes to trace
MANILA, Philippines–From Barangay Ginebra to Meralco Bolts, coach Norman Black’s checkered history is intertwined with key players on opposite sides of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
At Meralco, there is Chris Newsome, his two-way stud who could have played for the decorated Grand Slam coach earlier in his career. Newsome was supposed to suit up for Black’s dynastic Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP, but a redshirt year for the spitfire guard ended that dream.
“Things did not pan out for us at Ateneo,” he told the Inquirer. “So we just got to make it happen on the PBA level.”
Over at Ginebra, Justin Brownlee continues to squirm into his own spot in the PBA’s pantheon of imports.
Brownlee leads the race for the Best Import award and a victory there—which would be his second—will put him in an elite circle of reinforcements who have won the trophy more than once.
“[I]t’s not the main focus, but those type of awards are stuff that you can look back once you’re probably done with your career,” he said. “Of course, you want the championships, but also you know, those individual awards, they probably would mean something even more probably to your grandkids or, your kids. So it would be great to win those awards.”
Statistics-wise, Brownlee is 158 points shy of moving past the iconic Billy Ray Bates at No. 5 in the all-time imports scoring list. Considering Brownlee’s offensive production of late, a series going the full seven games will see him leapfrogging Bates.
At the top of that list? Black, another multiwinner of the best import trophy whose career trajectory Brownlee hopes to trace.
“Norman Black is a guy, who for sure, I look up to. Especially, you know, playing as an import,” said Brownlee. “Eventually—hopefully one day … I get to be a coach in this league.”
“A guy like Norman Black, he’s what you think of when you think of what a good or great import is in the PBA. He’s won championships as a player and as a coach and he’s got Best Import awards and all that. He’s somebody I look up to and I’m inspired by,” he added.
Expectedly, Black will not be a helpful big brother to Brownlee for as long as the series progresses. His efforts would be directed to helping Newsome accomplish their dream of winning a championship together.
“I feel like I’m much more experienced this time around. I feel like we know each other a lot better, too, this time around,” Newsome said.
Newsome is relishing his stint under Black and soaking in the Meralco culture and plans to stick around for as long as it takes to lead the franchise to its first championship.
“I mean … it’s easy to jump ship and go to another organization where you feel like you have a better chance to win. But I think what has kept me here is the culture and the people around me,” he said.
“Meralco’s also filled with nice, great guys on both ends of the court. Everyone respects each other, everyone’s supportive of each other and that’s the type of environment I see myself in, the type of environment I want to be a part of. And I think it makes it more fulfilling whenever you’re with a group of guys [who are] pretty underrated. For me, it’s really fulfilling to battle with such group of guys and and kind be that team that no one expects [to win],” Newsome added.
So as Brownlee tries to power Ginebra to yet another season-ending title and chases Black’s legacy on the side, Newsome will go out to try and do as Bolts what he and Black didn’t get to do together as Eagles.
“Now, it’s just time to go out there and perform and then see if we can do it,” Newsome said.
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