Justin Brownlee couldn’t wait to see action when Gilas Pilipinas battles Lebanon and Jordan in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this month.
Brownlee, a six-time Philippine Basketball Association champion who will serve as naturalized player of Gilas Pilipinas, said he will go all out, not just to make a strong impression in his national team debut, but also to defend their homecourt against the Lebanese and Jordanians.
The Filipinos will battle Lebanon on 24 February before facing Jordan on 27 February. Both matches will be played at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena, an event that also serves as a dry run of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in August.
Brownlee, who won a title with the Al Riyadi Beirut in the Lebanese League in 2019, said he has to be at his best knowing that the visitors are determined to beat them.
“It’s going to be an exciting game, very competitive,” Brownlee told Daily Tribune in a conversation.
“Lebanon is a very good team. They’ve been a pretty strong team, especially in the recent past. But I think the Philippines is ready to take on the challenge.”
Aside from Brownlee, who is still fresh from leading Barangay Ginebra to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title, also showing up in the latest training session of the national squad last Monday were his teammates in Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Jamie Malonzo as well as June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez of San Miguel Beer, Arvin Tolentino of NorthPort, Chris Newsome and Raymond Almazan of Meralco and Roger Pogoy of TNT.
Young guns like Schonny Winston, Carl Tamayo and Mason Amos also graced their second training session.
“We’ve been working very hard in practices,” Brownlee said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things, working our chemistry. It seems that the guys are ready for that (Lebanon) game as well as Jordan.”
Gilas coach Chot Reyes said more than defending their homecourt, avenging their bitter 81-85 loss to the Lebanese in the fourth window last August serves as their biggest motivation to come up with an impressive performance.
After all, they played great with Jordan Clarkson at the helm but lost after suffering a late-game defensive meltdown that led to Wael Arakji’s corner three-pointer in the last 16.3 seconds.
“My expectations for me as a coach is for our team to play better. We played a pretty good game against Lebanon,” said Reyes, who drew 27 points, seven assists and six rebounds from Clarkson as well as 18 points, 10 rebounds and six steals from Dwight Ramos during their game against the Lebanese.
“We played a lot better in the fifth window than we played in the fourth and we played a lot better in the fourth than the third.”
“That’s the kind of progress we want, just to get better in the sixth window than we played in the fifth window. That’s the direction we want for our program as well as the players to get to know each other better, comfortable with their roles.”