There’s something about Justin Brownlee that has given Gilas Pilipinas hope.

Yes, Tim Cone was also a major reason for the Philippines’ resurgence but that’s a story for another time that deserves its own piece. For now, though, credit must be given to the man who poured it all out on the court for Gilas for three games in Riga, Latvia.

Brownlee will finish in the top ten for most, if not, all of the per-game statistics FIBA tracks in the Latvia leg of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024. Whenever Gilas Pilipinas came up with a key basket or a crucial defensive stop, the six-time PBA champion had his fingerprints on it. A needed switch or an effective pass was something that may have gone under the radar, but every minute he was on the court (and boy was he on the court for pretty much the whole game at 38.3 minutes per game) was well spent.


Reliability was Brownlee’s best trait so it’s not surprising that calls for his statue or a run at next year’s national elections were thrown around. After all, he’s more reliable than some of the people in power.

Unfortunately, Brownlee and the Philippines fell short of a spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Gilas got a statement win over host Latvia and advanced to the semifinals with some fine play in a loss to Georgia. Against Brazil, Gilas Pilipinas held a slim 33-27 halftime lead, but the Brazilians made the crucial plays in the second half to book their spot in the finals and eventually clinch an Olympic berth.

With that, it was the end of the road for the Philippines. Gilas will now head home and get some much needed rest. Some players will finally relax after a long PBA season, while others will take a quick break before gearing up for their international stints. Regardless of what happens next, Brownlee will only focus on his recovery.

At 36, Brownlee is not getting any younger and will be 39 by the time the 2027 FIBA Basketball World Cup begins in Doha, Qatar and he will be a few months into 40 by the time the buildup for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles begins.

There’s still the chance he plays once he’s within 40 like Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas (41) and Spain’s Rudy Fernandez (39). Those two, however, are more perimeter-oriented, but Brownlee has been very careful in his approach on the court despite putting it all on the line. As Gilas Pilipinas’ frontcourt gets bigger over time, the Asian Games and SEA Games gold medallist can eventually put more time into staying in the perimeter and picking his spots.

Apart from the bone spurs he went under the knife for, Brownlee has generally been healthy since being a naturalized player for the Philippines. With the way he’s playing, the SBP should cover all his health expenses and ensure he gets the best treatment during competitions.

Having a coach like Cone should make Brownlee playing for a long time much more feasible. He understands how Cone’s system works and knows when to take over and when to get his teammates involved. He’s been among the more senior members of the team and his guidance through his words, actions, and body language have helped his team defy the odds.

The 2025 FIBA Asia Cup, the 2026 Asian Games, the 2027 FIBAl World Cup qualifiers, and the 2028 Summer Olympics are looming on the horizon and the preparations for that will begin in due time. Everyone is hoping that the pool does remain intact, because the longer Brownlee and the rest of the group get to stay together, the more they can build on the success they’ve had in recent years.

Years from now, future generations will ask how good Justin Brownlee was and while his championships with the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings will come to mind first, it’s his stint with Gilas Pilipinas that won him the hearts of the entire Philippines. While the end to this chapter is in sight, it remains a distant one and Brownlee and Gilas still have the time and opportunity to end it on a good note.