Justin Brownlee defends Chot Reyes, Gilas’ Fiba World Cup campaign
MANILA, Philippines—Reduced to a mere spectator during the Fiba World Cup, Justin Brownlee had very few to say about how his brothers-in-arms fared.
“Watching the games, you know, I can’t necessarily say it was hard to watch,” Brownlee said of the 1-4 homestand that also saw Gilas miss out on an outright ticket to the Paris Olympics.
“But I can say that I’m extremely proud of the guys,” the beloved Barangay Ginebra standout added. “They went out there and played extremely tough, and extremely hard.”
Brownlee also made a point to speak highly of Chot Reyes, the national coach who stepped down from the Gilas not long after the victory over regional powerhouse and old tormentor China.
“I am extremely proud of coach Chot. I think despite the criticisms, I still think he did an incredible job. I think he should be getting more praise than criticism more than anything,” he went on.
Brownlee played for the embattled Reyes during the sixth and final window of the World Cup Asian qualifiers, leading the Philippines to a split of the games against Lebanon and Jordan at Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
The do-it-all forward, who became a naturalized Filipino earlier this year, also saw battles alongside Reyes during the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, where the Philippines reclaimed the gold medal.
Before taking the backseat to Jordan Clarkson in the Fiba World Cup, Brownlee also trained with Gilas in Estonia and Lithuania.
Brownlee said that the results may have left a sour taste in many of this basketball-crazed nation’s fans, but that doesn’t take away the kind of fight that group of men turned in.
“Unfortunately, we did play some really tough teams. First game to the last game,” he said. “Italy’s Top 10 in the World. The Dominican Republic? With Karl-Anthony Towns—one of the best players in the world and one especially one of the best big men [out there]? Even with Angola, (Gilas) played with great energy against physically gifted and athletic guys. South Sudan, too. I can keep going on and on.”
“At the end of the day, I can say I’m proud of the guys from the competition they had to go up against,” Brownlee added. “They played extremely tough at heart and definitely showed Filipino pride and heart. That’s first and foremost, and that’s all I could say about the World Cup.”