Justin Brownlee leads Gilas Final 12 out to ‘make the Philippines happy’
Justin Brownlee, the naturalized Filipino on whose shoulders the Philippines’ redemption campaign in the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games rests on, is steadfast in his belief that Gilas Pilipinas will fare well in Cambodia.
“I think we’re going to be great,” he said with a smile. “Of course, I don’t want to have too high of an expectation, but the team is jelling pretty well.
“I think everybody is going to be confident going into the SEA Games,” he went on.
Much of Brownlee’s optimism stems from the five-day camp in Calamba, Laguna, where the players learned more about each other. But it was also during that stretch that Gilas gained something invaluable for its trek back to the basketball summit that begins Monday.
“We had a tune-up against Ateneo and Magnolia on Wednesday and Thursday. We won both,” national coach Chot Reyes said. “It was closer than I expected, but we were using a lot of player combinations.
“But I’m really thankful to [both teams] because Ateneo plays very good physical pressure defense, which is the same thing with Magnolia. They gave us a great test run to find out more about ourselves,” he went on.
Brownlee will be leading a healthy mix of pros and varsity standouts in the campaign that begins against Malaysia.
Backstopping the tireless Barangay Ginebra import are 2019 SEA Games gold winners Christian Standhardinger, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, CJ Perez, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser and Arvin Tolentino and rounding out the cast are collegiate standouts Mike Phillips, Jerom Lastimosa and teen Mason Amos.
Gilas knows that it has its work out for itself, with opposing nations capitalizing on the relaxed eligibility rules—which was on full display on Sunday when the national 3×3 crew fell to a Cambodia squad that fielded—and stuck with—three naturalized players throughout the gold medal match.
But it’s not something that Gilas could not handle, according to Brownlee.
“It’s definitely going to be tough and challenging for us, but I think everybody has been buying in on the defensive end,” he said.
“[We] just want to make the Philippines happy, you know and just get to the gold. I know how big and huge basketball impacts lives here in the Philippines,” he added
“[This] whole team wants to just make this country proud—and that’s the most important thing: Showing Filipinos pride and making the country proud.”