IN every interview that he does, Justin Brownlee has always expressed how honored he is to be a naturalized Filipino and play for Gilas Pilipinas in international competitions.
But Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone thinks that Brownlee’s words aren’t enough to encapsulate how his import REALLY wants to be a Filipino citizen.
Cone on how excited Justin Brownlee is to become Filipino
“I know he says it but I think somebody else needs to say it,” said Cone to SPIN.ph recently. “He is just truly honored to be doing this and (is) extremely, extremely happy.”
The 34-year-old Brownlee is getting closer and closer to becoming a Filipino citizen after a House Bill that grants his naturalization has been approved on third and final reading recently. A similar Bill at the Senate will also have to go through that same process before a final version is transmitted to President Marcos Jr. for signing into law.
“I just feel blessed and honored to be in this position,” Brownlee said after the bill was passed on third reading. “Just want to thank everybody who is involved and helping me get to this point. But I just feel excited. I can’t wait to represent the Philippines in whatever tournament or Gilas window.
“I just can’t wait. I’m excited. I’m excited for the fans. I know they’ve been wanting, a lot of Ginebra fans want me to play for the national team. Just all around, just excited,” said Brownlee.
Cone can attest that Brownlee is truly excited to go through the whole process of naturalization that includes attending committee hearings on both houses, and a regular session at Congress where a total of 274 members voted in the affirmative to approve the bill.
“He is really gigil about this whole thing. He is raring to go. I don’t know if you capture all that from him because he is kinda low key. But he really is excited about this process. It’s not a hassle for him,” said Cone.
Brownlee’s ballclub has also been supportive of the naturalization bid. Cone revealed that, during the first hearing on Brownlee’s naturalization, Ginebra practiced in the afternoon with Brownlee being at Congress the whole morning.
Brownlee hasn’t missed practice even once during the whole proceedings, even bringing with him his barong tagalog as he had to attend a regular session of Congress later in the day.
“We moved practice to the afternoon," Cone recalled during the first hearing on Brownlee's naturalization. "He was there like four hours. He was there at 8 o clock for the 9 o clock meeting all the way to 12:30. Then, he rushed back to practice and we start practicing."
Cone admitted Brownlee’s naturalization process is “a little bit of a distraction” but the team is willing to do it because it is for the country, and for the national team. The target of Gilas Pilipinas is to have Brownlee available for the February window of the Fiba Basketball World Cup Asian qualifiers.
“It’s a little bit of a distraction for sure. But that’s part of the sacrifice. Going to Saudi Arabia, going to Jordan, it’s a distraction. I wasn’t here for two weeks to coach our team,” said Cone.
“That’s part of the sacrifice. You have to go through all these distractions. But it’s for a bigger cause. We will try to battle through the distractions,” said Cone.