After 221 days, Justin Brownlee returned to the Sta. Rosa Sports Complex – the same place where San Miguel Alab Pilipinas won their first ASEAN Basketball League championship.
But while the 6-foot-5 American import was donning Alab’s jersey, Brownlee sat on the sidelines as a special guest to the team.
And he was in awe as the reloaded Alab squad romped the CLS Knights, 94-67, in their season debut.
Leading the charge were the Puerto Rican duo of Renaldo Balkman and PJ Ramos. Balkman, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, tallied 33 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks; while Ramos poured in 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“Renaldo Balkman, man, he was sleek. He made the game look very easy. They’re just looking very good,” gushed the 30-year-old Brownlee, who averaged 21.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game last season.
“They’re very entertaining!”
But it was not just the imports who did the job; Alab’s locals – led by reigning Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. –and new recruits Brandon Rosser, Ethan Alvano, and Caelan Tiongson all had a hand in the victory as well.
“It’s a great group of guys – very entertaining. And it looks like they’re having fun out there.”
Brownlee himself can’t wait to suit up for Alab once again.
However, there’s one catch. The Philippine-based club team has already exhausted its cap for signing imports.
Unless the league rules on signing imports change, or either Balkman or Ramos take a pay cut, it would be tough for Alab to sign Brownlee.
But there’s still another way.
Brownlee is currently undergoing the process of naturalization. And if he makes it on time, he can play as a local for Alab – just like how American David Arnold became a local for the Saigon Heat.
Come what may, the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Best Import vows to be ready when he is called up by Alab.
“For sure, man, for sure!”