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Justin Brownlee on emotional PH return: ‘I missed the fans more than anything’

Justin Brownlee did not disappoint in his much-awaited return to a Philippine basketball court on Sunday night, leading Gilas Pilipinas to a dominant victory over Chinese Taipei to close out the opening window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers.

Brownlee tallied 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and an assist to the delight of the roaring Filipino crowd at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

And his performance spearheaded the Philippines’ 106-53 assault on Chinese Taipei.

“I missed it. I missed the fans more than anything.

“You can hear it in the background. I just missed it, seeing their smiles and just being able to make them cheer and seeing them,” said Brownlee, who registered 13 points in the first half.

FIBA-Asia-Cup-Q-Justin-Brownlee-Kai-Sotto-3834 Justin Brownlee on emotional PH return: 'I missed the fans more than anything' Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

It has been a tough past couple of months for the resident PBA import.

Just days after leading Gilas Pilipinas to a historic gold medal finish in the 19th Asian Games, Brownlee tested positive for Carboxy-THC – a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency – which sidelined him for the entirety of the 2023-2024 Commissioner’s Cup.

The 35-year-old Tifton, Georgia native was able to return to action just two days ago after serving a voluntary suspension which FIBA decided to retroactively count, allowing him to play in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup.

He showed no rust in his return to action two days ago, delivering 16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in Gilas’ 94-64 rout of Hong Kong last Thursday.

Brownlee said that his performance against Chinese Taipei was fueled by the passionate fans inside the arena, who have been patiently waiting for his return since his suspension.

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“Yeah, they definitely came in with some energy. It made me wanna be more aggressive. Just seeing the crowd roar and like I said, put a smile on their faces and make them cheer and be happy,” said Brownlee.

The 6-foot-6 versatile forward is set to make a decision on where he will play next soon before he makes his return to the PBA with Ginebra after the Philippine Cup.

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