Brownlee ready to fill ‘very big shoes’ as Gilas PH naturalized standout
Justin Brownlee could only shake his head upon hearing the names of the prolific players who filled the naturalized player’s slot for Gilas Pilipinas.
Jordan Clarkson. Marcus Douthit. Andray Blatche. Even college star Ange Kouame comes with his own special resume.
“Man. I sure got big shoes to fill,” Brownlee said with a nervous chuckle during a chat with the Inquirer late Friday night.
Clarkson, the Utah Jazz star in the National Basketball Association is without doubt the best scorer the national basketball program has ever had. Douthit, meanwhile, spearheaded the dramatic victory over South Korea in the Fiba Asia Cup that launched the Philippines back into the World Cup. And in that 2014 edition of the global basketball showcase, Blatche helped Gilas Pilipinas nail a milestone victory.
“I know the history, especially with Blatche and the national team even way back in 2014, so I’ve definitely got big shoes to fill,” he added.
Kouame may be the least accomplished of that pool, but his work with Ateneo and the national team’s brilliant run during a Fiba qualifying tournament held here is nothing to scoff at.
Brownlee, the well-loved Barangay Ginebra import is on pace to become the newest recruit for Gilas Pilipinas following his bid for Filipino citizenship, which formally got going last at the House of Representatives just this Wednesday.
And as such, he is ready to weave his own story into the country’s basketball lore, without worrying about how to make himself stand out when compared to those who came before him.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, especially with regards to basketball, but I really just want to be the very best I can,” he said.
“I feel like everyone is special in his own way, but I guess by just being me and playing my style of basketball and helping that implement within the team and with what they’ve already got going as far with the way they play, is how I can [truly] fit in.”
A five-time PBA champion and a two-time winner of the league’s Best Import plum, Brownlee’s indefatigable play has endeared him not only to fans of the PBA but also to the players—and fans—of opposing ball clubs.
“He has never missed practice, and he gives it his all every time,” national coach Chot Reyes told the Inquirer recently. “And the good thing about JB is that he is willing to be the backup. He told me he will be ready if JC (Jordan Clarkson) becomes unavailable—that’s a big thing.”
And the do-it-all forward insists that with his time coming, his goal has nothing to do with being as outstanding as his predecessors.
“I wouldn’t say I would be any more as special as the past naturalized players, but I think by just being me, I think I can bring something different,” he said.
Brownlee’s naturalization bill will need to hurdle two more readings at the House level before it moves on to the Senate. There, it will go through the same legislative process and will then be sent to the Office of the President for signing into law.
Only then can Brownlee begin his role as a naturalized player and backstop the national team—which basketball officials hope could happen by February, when Gilas hosts streaking Lebanon and vengeful Jordan at Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
“Hopefully, it just works out,” he said.