By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s resident import Justin Brownlee’s dream of representing the Philippines is nearer to reality after the Senate approved on second reading House Bill No. 6224.
Under the bill, Brownlee will be granted Filipino citizenship which is the only thing needed for him to suit up in FIBA-sanctioned competitions including the upcoming 2023 World Cup.
Senator Francis Tolentino is keeping track of the bill who is also the proponent and is hoping for a smooth process for Brownlee to join Gilas Pilipinas as early as January next year.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the Gilas coaching staff are targeting Brownlee’s national team debut in the next FIBA window on February 2023.
If the senate will approve his Filipino citizenship request, the small forward scoring machine will then be eligible to don the Gilas uniform starting 2023.
Brownlee’s first task wearing the blue and white jersey will be against Lebanon and Jordan in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers.
“Perhaps by almost the end of January, if the president signs it into a law, or if it lapses into a non-signature law, it will take time. And by that time, we are now costing the FIBA window,” Tolentino said.
Brownlee already established his name in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) as one of the greatest imports of all time after steering Ginebra to five championship titles.
Since helping the Gin Kings win the 2016 PBA Governor’s Cup, the coaching staff headed by chief tactician Tim Cone stuck with Brownlee and has consistently been their import until now.
The crafty small forward also won the PBA Best Import of the Conference award twice during 2018 and the 2021 Governor’s Cup.
If Brownlee will be able to complete their naturalization, this will be the first time that Gilas will be bringing in a forward instead of a center.
The past two Gilas eras saw Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche don the blue and white jersey and led the country to its glory days in the FIBA Asia scene.