The perfect fit? | Inquirer Sports


Photo by Tristan Tamayo/

Gilas Pilipinas could maximize Justin Brownlee’s versatility and ability to make big shots should the national team successfully acquire him as its naturalized player.

Former Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap, who worked with Brownlee during his stint at St. John’s, believes Brownlee’s skill set is a perfect fit for the national team.

“He was one of those guys that were positionless before positionless became a fashionable word,” Dunlap said in a Hoop Coaches International webinar recently.

“He’s smart and versatile and he could score naturally.”

It was Brownlee’s final year at St. John’s in 2011 when Dunlap served as assistant coach to Steve Lavin.

A few months later, Brownlee went undrafted in the 2011 NBA Draft, setting off a whirlwind career that saw him play in Europe and Asia.

Brownlee holds legendary status as Barangay Ginebra’s resident import in the PBA, having won four titles since 2016. That’s on top of the Asean Basketball League title he won as Alab Pilipinas’ reinforcement in 2018.

Those achievements have prompted calls for Brownlee to be naturalized for Gilas Pilipinas. In fact, House Bill No. 8106 seeking Brownlee’s naturalization has already been introduced by Representatives Michael Romero (1-Pacman), Enrico Pineda (1-Pacman), Erico Aumentado (Bohol, 2nd district) and Scott Lanete (Quezon City, 3rd district) two years ago.

Also being considered for naturalization are Ateneo’s Ivorian center Ange Kouame and former San Miguel reinforcement Chris McCullough.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio, in an earlier interview with the Inquirer, said that there are several prospects for naturalization for Gilas and that they have an eye on one player whom they just want to confirm his willingness to play. Panlilio, though, didn’t name the prospect.

Naturalizing a player, Panlilio said, depends very much on what kind of homegrown lineup Gilas will have, especially for the 2023 World Cup that the Philippines will cohost with Indonesia and Japan.

Should the 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, who just signed a G League contract, be available, it is logical to think that Brownlee could be the perfect fit since Gilas will have a tall front line with 6-foot-10, six-time PBA most valuable player June Mar Fajardo expected to easily make the roster, being at the prime of his health three years from now.

Dunlap said Brownlee has a winning mentality that coaches can’t teach.

“The thing about pro level, whether it’s the Philippines, the NBA, or Australia, or Euroball, is that when the money is on the line, you need guys that can score. And Justin was one of those guys that you didn’t have to diagram a play [for] and all of a sudden, he would do something where you went, ‘Oh my God.’ And he was one of the guys,” he said.

Brownlee’s ability to adapt with teammates is also another asset.

“He’s a good teammate and the guys in the locker room liked Justin,” he said. “He never had a bite to him. He just knew how to go along to get along with people, so I like that about him.” INQ

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