From now on, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel import Justin Brownlee and naturalized player Ange Kouame will be joining forces — at least every Monday.
Brownlee and Kouame made heads turn when they showed up in the first training session of Gilas Pilipinas in preparation for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The 24-year-old Kouame, the Ivorian slotman who serves as the country’s naturalized player, said he is glad to join the training and learn from veterans like Brownlee and other Philippine Basketball Association stars.
“I’m just happy to be back and play for the national team,” Kouame told Daily Tribune during the Gilas training held at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City late Monday.
“I’m just here for the experience and to learn from these veterans.”
Brownlee, on the other hand, is a candidate for naturalization.
Once his application has been approved, he will serve as backup reinforcement for National Basketball Association stalwart Jordan Clarkson, who will power Gilas in the FIBA World Cup next year.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios was in attendance as well as legal counsel Atty. Aga Francisco, who is also the chairman of the FIBA legal commission.
“Hi Justin, you look good in blue,” said Barrios, referring to Brownlee who was clad in a blue and white Gilas practice jersey.
But Gilas assistant coach Tim Cone was quick to shoot back.
“Only every Monday,” Cone, who is Brownlee’s head coach at Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Basketball Association, said in jest.
But on a serious note, Cone was thrilled to see his long-time player joining Gilas practice.
“For me personally, I love Justin being here and how much he wants to be here,” Cone said.
“He has represented us (Ginebra) in the past. Now you have two very different types of players depending on what we need. You need a big, strong seven-foot player and you’ll go for Ange and if you need a wing who can play in and out, you go for Justin.”
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes welcomed Brownlee, whom he gets to coach for the first time.
“Everybody who attended the training, their mindset is really to help,” Reyes said.
“How we can help. Whether you make it to the lineup or not, put on the reserve, that’s what they intend to do. That’s very good for the program.”