Brownlee: we’re going there to win

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Brownlee: we�re going there to win
Justin Brownlee
Facebook / SBP

MANILA, Philippines — Up ahead is an Everest-sized mountain to climb but that doesn’t stop Gilas Pilipinas from believing as it pursues its Olympic dream.

“It’s going to be really tough for us but that’s why we’re here,” Gilas naturalized player Justin Brownlee said ahead of the Nationals’ stint in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Latvia.

“We’re going to play against the best in the world and of course, if you want to be Olympians and qualify you got to play with the best in the world.”

Brownlee and the Gilas team assembled by coach Tim Cone need to top the July 2 to 7 OQT in Riga to secure the country’s first Olympic stint since 1972.

First, the 37th-ranked Philippine quintet must finish in the Top 2 of Group A against world No. 6 and host Latvia and No. 23 Georgia and then take care of business in the crossover semis against counterparts from Group B composed of Brazil, Cameroon and Montenegro and eventually, the one-game finale to gain entry.

“If you want to be Olympians and qualify you got to play with the best in the world. I think it’s going to be a great experience for us and we’re definitely going in there to win,” said Brownlee.

“No matter they’re ranked higher than us, you know they put on their shoes like we put on our shoes and we come in to represent the country in the right way, in the best way we can,” he added.

Gilas is fielding an 11-man team to the qualifiers as getting a late replacement for injured playmaker Scottie Thompson (out on back injury) in time for their departure for Europe yesterday was no longer possible.

“We’re going 11-strong,” said Cone, who will rely on the versatility of Brownlee, June Mar Fajardo, Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Chris Newsome, CJ Perez, Calvin Oftana, Japeth Aguilar, Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao and Mason Amos.

“We miss Scottie but we don’t feel shorthanded. We talked it out with the 11 guys, they’re 11-strong and they feel we’re okay.”

Cone, whose crew scored a 74-64 win over visiting Taiwan Mustangs in a sendoff friendly game Monday night at the PhilSports Arena, admitted it’s still a long way to go to reach fighting shape.

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