IRA Brown is hoping for a memorable return in the Philippines as he leads Japan in its Fiba World Cup qualifying match against Gilas Pilipinas on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The US-born naturalized Japanese power forward is back in the country for the first time since 2011 when he briefly suited up for San Miguel Beer as its import for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that year.
“It’s good to be back,” Brown said after practice on the eve of the matchup against Gilas. “I had a great time when I was here. It was a great experience. I still have friends here. I’m not sure if the guys I played with are still here, but it’d be great to see the guys if I ever run into them.
“I love the PBA fans here,” he added. “They’re hostile and very loud, so I look forward to playing in front of everybody again.”
Brown rattled off Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Dorian Pena, and Mick Pennisi as his teammates at SMB where he played for just two games, the second where he hit the game-winning putback against Meralco, before being replaced by David Young.
The 35-year-old Brown, though, didn’t get to play with current SMB superstar June Mar Fajardo, who came into the league in 2012.
Now, Brown gets to match up with the reigning four-time MVP, who anchors Gilas’ frontcourt.
“He’s very skilled,” Brown said of Fajardo. “That’s all I can say. I just have to outwork him and beat him to his spots, and not let him get comfortable to catch it low on the post. Other than that, I think I’ll be fine.”
The 6-foot-4 Brown, who registered 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, 15 boards, two blocks, two steals, and one assist in 32 minutes in Japan’s 77-71 loss to the Philippines last November, is hoping to pull off an upset in hostile territory to stay in contention for a spot in the second round.
“No matter how you look at it – whether we’re at home or here, every game’s a tough situation,” Brown said. “We just got to block out all the noise and overcome adversity when you have it, and continue to push forward.
“That’s what we’re looking forward to doing and hopefully come away with a win,” he added.