After taking a backseat to an NBA standout in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup, Justin Brownlee is raring to be at the forefront of Gilas Pilipinas once again.
“I’m just excited to be in this position—to be able to represent the country again, on the international stage,” the indefatigable and beloved Barangay Ginebra standout told the Inquirer during one of the national team’s recent practices at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
“The Asian Games is coming up, so I’m readying to put on that jersey and represent the country the best way I can: On the basketball court, and out there in China,” he added.
Brownlee, an American who was granted Filipino citizenship earlier this year, is set to lead a squad littered with Philippine Basketball Association stars in the 19th Asian Games that gets going in Hangzhou, China, next week.
Ready when needed
The Philippines will be opening its bid against Bahrain on Sept. 26, and Brownlee is not allowing anything to get in the way of a resounding Gilas return.
“I’m still in the process of getting back to a hundred percent from that,” he said of the left foot procedure to clear his ankle of bone spurs.
“It was a month ago, and it takes time to get back, right? But through all that, I’m just ready to represent the country—and if not a hundred, then close to it, by the time the Asian Games come,” he added.
Brownlee will have a week-long window to expedite that process, which began on Saturday—when the national team returned to the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba where it will be practicing nonstop until Sept. 21 as the program looks to bounce back from a failed bid in the recent World Cup.
Cone, who is calling the shots for Gilas once again on an interim basis, said that the short camp in Laguna will focus on the fundamentals—a step he feels provides more value than playing friendlies.
“To me, the practices are more important than the friendlies because we learn more through practices than the games,” he said. “We’re going to be foundational. We’re going to be fundamental and get to whatever level we can get to by doing it the right way.”
Make no mistake, Cone also sees the importance of playing tuneup matches. Barring any changes, Gilas is in fact playing the Meralco Bolts sometime during its short stay at Inspire. The Nationals are also scheduled to host Changwon LG Sakers in a free-to-see contest at PhilSports on Sept. 22, just before they leave for China.
Despite the shrinking window for preparations, Cone—just like his old hand Brownlee—is taking things easy.
“We’re trying to figure things out. We’re trying to figure each other out. We’re trying to figure our system out. That’s just a daily, ongoing thing that we’re doing every day,” he said.
“We just feel that if we stay focused there, stay focused on our process, then the idea of winning the gold is gonna take care of itself.”
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