By: Rom Anzures
BOCAUE — Gilas Pilipinas has a good problem in front of them heading into the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
In two Qualifiers games at the Philippine Arena here, Justin Brownlee not only amazed. He basically was the main man for Gilas Pilipinas.
Brownlee, who became a full-fledged Filipino last January 12, dazzled in his first-ever game with ‘PILIPINAS’ emblazed at the front of his jersey, tallying 17 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two steals. And he led the Philippines to a 107-96 win over the hottest team in the continent Lebanon.
Three days later, Brownlee was basically the fuel that powered the Gilas machine against Jordan.
Behind his herculean effort, the native of Tifton, Georgia, who is the resident import of Ginebra, almost single-handedly beat Jordan, firing an Asian Qualifiers-record-tying 41 points to go along with 12 rebounds, three assists, and a block.
Brownlee’s Gilas games have raised a question – is the three-time PBA Best Import a better fit for Gilas than the 2020-21 NBA Sixth Man of the Year for the World Cup?
“First of all, with Justin’s performance, there’s little to say. You all saw how effective Justin is and how well he played,” said Gilas head coach and program director Chot Reyes after their 90-91 loss to Jordan.
“As regards who the naturalized player is, Justin has always known that he makes himself possible for whatever is required by the team. If we need someone to play in specific tournaments, if we need someone to play as backup to Jordan Clarkson, he is willing to play that role.”
Clarkson himself also delivered for Gilas back in Window 4.
In an 85-81 road loss to Lebanon, Clarkson produced 27 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. He followed it up with a masterful 23-point, six-assist, and five-rebound outing against Saudi Arabia at home.
Reyes though said that even if Clarkson is world-level, he is not a shoo-in for the Worlds. No one is.
“Having said that, there are no shoo-ins in the team. There’s no one with a lock and that goes for everyone. Right now, there are no shoo-ins. So, that goes for all locals and naturalized players.
“We also have Ange Kouame and we are not ruling out the possibility of going out and looking for another 6-10, 6-11 guy,” he closed.