Justin Brownlee basks in the warmth of the reception, but the six-time PBA champion knows that his homecoming is just the beginning of the work that lies ahead.
With less than two weeks before the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers tip-off, Brownlee acknowledges the dual challenge awaiting him and the Gilas Pilipinas squad.
Speaking at a mini-press conference during halftime of Game 4 in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals between Magnolia and San Miguel on Friday night, February 9, 2024, Brownlee revealed his efforts to stay in top condition despite being away from the country.
Aware that his services will be crucial in the upcoming international tournaments, Brownlee has been focusing on maintaining his fitness.
He shared that he’s been trying to do whatever he can, at least on conditioning.
As the naturalized player for Gilas Pilipinas, Brownlee plays a pivotal role in the team’s aspirations in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the Olympic qualifying tournament in Riga, Latvia, scheduled from July 2-7. Despite the challenges, Brownlee expressed confidence in his physical state, stating, “Right now, I feel good, I feel rested. I feel healthy.”
The basketball star, who returned to the Philippines after spending almost four months in the US, made his first public appearance at the Smart Araneta Coliseum during Game 4.
The crowd welcomed him with open arms, showcasing the enduring love and support for the player who led Gilas Pilipinas to a historic basketball gold during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
During a heartwarming moment before the start of the third quarter, Brownlee was presented with a symbolic basketball at midcourt by PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, San Miguel Corporation sports director Alfrancis Chua, San Miguel governor Robert Non, and Games and Amusement Board chairman Atty. Richard Clarin.
Overwhelmed by the chants and applause from the capacity crowd, Brownlee expressed his emotions, saying, “It feels good. I have been waiting for this moment for the past few months. Happy to come back and be greeted with a lot of love. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while, and I’m just happy to be back.”
Now, with the Asia Cup qualifiers looming on February 22 in Hong Kong and a subsequent match in Chinese Taipei on February 25, Brownlee is ready to lead the 12-man team assembled by coach Tim Cone.
The warm reception and love from the fans serve as a motivating force as they set their sights on a successful campaign in the international arena.