IT'S no secret that among all the Alab Pilipinas players, Justin Brownlee is one of the most popular after leading Ginebra to back-to-back PBA Governors’ Cup championships.
Wherever he goes in the ABL, the do-it-all forward always gets mobbed by fans. While that makes him more excited to return to the squad that made him a household name in the Philippines, the St. John's product is keeping his eyes on the prize with his current team.
"It’s cool, man. I just want to continue playing basketball and it’s something that I love to do. I can’t wait to get back to Ginebra but my focus is strictly on Alab," said Brownlee.
"We’re in the playoffs right now and we’ll try to go as far as we can and try to win it."
Standing in the way of Brownlee and the Philippines are the second-seeded Hong Kong Eastern squad, which beat them twice in the early stages of the tournament.
The biggest difference for Alab in the best-of-three semifinals series that starts at 8 p.m. on Wednesday in Hong Kong, is obviously the arrival of Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman. Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa were still the Alab imports in the two losses to Hong Kong.
The 29-year-old Brownlee, though, expects no less than a grind-out battle against the reigning ABL champions.
"They’re the defending champs. So I expect nothing but that type of effort from those guys. They’re gonna come and play hard," he said.
"They’ve got a lot of talent so I’m sure coach Jimmy [Alapag], we’re gonna watch them, go through every guy and force them maybe to their weaknesses and limit what they do best. There’s a saying, if you want to be the champ you have to beat the champ."
While most imports are treated as mercenaries who'll usually come in and do their job without attachment, Brownlee's a different case.
The 6-foot-7 forward might not be a Filipino by blood, but with all the love that he's received from Pinoys everywhere he goes, he vows to fly the flag high for the Philippines.
"I think me and my teammates, we’re ready to represent the Philippines and try to take down the defending champs in this series," said Brownlee.