It was hard not to root for Justin Brownlee’s chances to crack the Gilas Pilipinas roster for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup even if the inevitable outcome was that he would take a backseat to Jordan Clarkson.
Recently, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) officially announced Clarkson’s commitment to play for the Philippines in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, ending weeks, or rather, months of negotiations behind the scenes and putting and end to the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year’s availability for the World Cup.
Through it all, Brownlee was a constant presence, making his Gilas debut in the sixth window of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers, helping Gilas Pilipinas reclaim the gold medal in the hotly-contested 2023 SEA Games, and attending practices both here and abroad. Simply put, if there’s a consummate professional, then Brownlee is the consummate national team player.
You have to feel bad for Justin Brownlee, especially with all the blood, sweat, and tears he poured out. Of course, he came into this knowing how the ending would turn out, but he nonetheless pushed on and put on his best efforts. It won’t be surprising to see three-time PBA Best Import of the Conference support the squad from the bench, where he will offer support in any way he can.
All things considered, it can be said that we commiserate with Brownlee’s predicament but nonetheless look forward to Clarkson joining the Philippine team. After all, if not for FIBA’s archaic citizenship rules, we’d be seeing both Brownlee and Clarkson share the court for Gilas come August. That combination of scoring and all-around ability from both players would have boosted the host country’s chances of advancing past the first round even more and who knows what they could have done with more time together.
While Clarkson will get the nod in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Brownlee will likely return to national team duty when Gilas Pilipinas competes in the postponed 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China that kicks off two weeks after the World Cup. Eligibility at the Asian Games is usually more lax compared to FIBA international competitions so Brownlee and Clarkson could technically play together if things work in their favor. However, the Asian Games will likely fall within the start of the Utah Jazz’s training camp so Clarkson, who just signed a three-year, $55-million extension with the Jazz, will likely not be available.
In the meantime, Brownlee will be on the sidelines as he is reportedly dealing with bone spurs in his foot. Foot injuries can be tricky so any rest before he can get before the Asian Games will be good, especially since he will be counted on to take on a heavy load in China. Besides, the 35-year old already went above and beyond what was asked of him and he deserves the break and perhaps some time away from the team.
Beyond this international basketball cycle though, what sucks more is how it took so long to get Brownlee naturalized despite his eagerness to represent the Philippines. The law granting the six-time PBA champion’s naturalization had been filed in Congress since August 2018 and it took nearly five years before it was signed into law earlier this year. Moreover, a few foreign players were reportedly willing to be part of the Gilas pool of naturalized players and having a group ready could have been helpful in Gilas’ campaigns in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2021 SEA Games. But, it’s best not to cry over spilled milk and look forward to Brownlee’s future stints with Gilas Pilipinas.
Justin Brownlee is officially the odd man out in Gilas Pilipinas’ roster for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup and it’s both an understable and unfortunate situation. If anything, the best takeaway for us is Brownlee’s professional attitude all throughout, which was part of what helped solidify his place in the hearts of the Filipino basketball community.