By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone finally found some comfort now that naturalized player Justin Brownlee is back with the squad as they set their sights on the Asia Cup qualifiers on Feb. 22 and 25.
“For me personally, Justin is like my comfort blanket,” said Cone.
“I’ve had him (with Ginebra) for the last seven years, so he knows me inside and out, and I know him inside and out, so there’s always a comfort level when we come together and play,” he added.
The Gilas team is scheduled to train at the Inspire Sports Academy on Feb. 15, but Cone and Brownlee already found themselves working together again on Monday, Feb. 12, when Barangay Ginebra, where Cone is also the coach and Brownlee the resident import, had their first practice session.
Both mentor and player were excited to see each other in the court once again, especially Brownlee, who was cleared to play for Gilas after he opted to serve a provisional suspension period that commenced on Nov. 9 in relation to testing positive for a banned substance at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
“We’re just excited to have him again. He’s such a great model and teacher of the game. He’s such a huge addition for the team and I can’t imagine not having him here,” Cone said.
Brownlee, who even took extra minutes to shoot more baskets, said he couldn’t wait to work with his Gilas teammates.
“It’s need to be see everybody, just feeling the vibe and getting tired, just practicing,” said Brownlee on his Ginebra teammates.
“And I’m looking forward to create some more memorable moments and achieve mor for Gilas. It’s a different time that I spent with Gilas, but I think everybody is a great group of guys. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for us,” he added.
Clustered in Group B in the Asia Cup qualifiers, Gilas will face Hong Kong on the road on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. before the Filipinos host the Chinese Taipei on Feb. 25 at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City at 7:30 p.m.
Gilas, will then face powerhouse New Zealand in November.