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Justin Brownlee’s availability still up in the air

by Bryan Gadingan

THE SAMAHANG Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) indicated on Tuesday that Justin Brownlee’s availability for Gilas Pilipinas in the first round of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers will be announced in the coming days.

Photo courtesy: Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas SBP 

SBP executive director Erika Dy said at the season-opening presser for the women’s 3×3 showcase Manila Hustle on Tuesday, “We were told that it could come in anytime this week.”

“We’re hoping that he gets the lowest level of suspension, which is a three-month period,” she said, referring to the formal sentence imposed by the International Basketball Federation.

Brownlee failed a drug test during last year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. The International Testing Agency (ITA) obtained the naturalized player’s sample during an in-competition anti-doping inspection on October 7. 

This came a day after the Philippines defeated Jordan, 70-60, in the gold medal game. Gilas Pilipinas won the country’s first Asiad basketball gold in 61 years.

The new SBP official said that the punishment will be retroactive, which means that the time Brownlee had been sidelined since the disclosure of his positive test already counts toward his suspension, even before the formal verdict.

This is probably why Brownlee has opted out of a return to his PBA mother club Barangay Ginebra. He has also stayed out of the spotlight to avoid heavier sanctions.

“It’s called ‘provisional or voluntary suspension,” added Dy. “And that three-month period would end on Feb. 8. So that’s just in time for the first window.”

Meanwhile, Tim Cone, the newly appointed head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, is confident that Brownlee would be cleared to rejoin the team in time for next month’s first assignments under his new term.

Cone, who was appointed on Monday, said at the PSA Awards Night at the Diamond Hotel that if all goes well with FIBA, Brownlee will become a naturalized player.

“We’re hoping their (FIBA’s) decision will come down sometime this week and that it will hopefully free him up for the window on the 22nd,” he continued, referring to Gilas’ first away game against Hong Kong, followed by a home game versus Chinese Taipei.

Brownlee is part of a 12-man squad preparing for the World Cup in Qatar and the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“Coach Tim has to make a decision whether we are just going to go with 11 players or he fills that in with a replacement player for this window,” explained Dy.

While Brownlee can participate, Dy shared that AJ Edu is unlikely to play. It is now up to Gilas’ coach Cone to stick with the remaining 11 players on his roster or to find a substitute for the injured Edu.

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