April 14, 2024

Gilas conundrum: Justin Brownlee or Jordan Clarkson for the FIBA World Cup?

Gilas conundrum: Justin Brownlee or Jordan Clarkson for the FIBA World Cup?
Art by One Sports

Ever since Justin Brownlee donned the Gilas Pilipinas jersey, there’s been an ongoing debate among fans as to who should be the country’s naturalized player come the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Is it Brownlee or Jordan Clarkson?

The answer, of course, is not simple. As far as statistics are concerned, there is relatively little to no difference between the two.

Both led the Philippines to a 1-1 record in their respective windows. On one hand, Brownlee normed 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists in the sixth and final window punctuated by a 41-point explosion in a 90-91 loss to Jordan on Monday. On the other hand, the Utah Jazz star averaged 25 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists and provided some highlights one would expect from someone playing in the NBA.

But in basketball, there are things one won’t see in stat sheets like effort, leadership, and chemistry.

Fans argue that chemistry was palpable with Brownlee in the fold. After all, the six-time PBA champion with the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings is known more as a “team player” who can also close out games when he needs to. Just ask Allen Durham.

With Clarkson, well, we all know what an elite NBA player can bring to the table apart from scoring.

But why not both? Despite slim chances, Reyes is not ruling out the prospect of having Clarkson as a local.

"I believe in miracles, but they [FIBA] have already said categorically, 'No.' We're still trying. If there's a miracle, that would be the best situation for us," Reyes said on Monday. 

Spectators can dole out their opinions on the matter all they want. At the end of the day, Gilas coach Chot Reyes and his staff will decide based on a number of criteria, including availability.

On Monday, the outspoken mentor made it clear spots in the Gilas roster will have to be earned. Before the World Cup, the Filipino dribblers are expected to see action in various pocket tournaments as part of their preparation. If a player can join the buildup as early as possible, then there's a big chance he can make the lineup.

“Again, there are no shoo-ins for the World Cup, the SEA Games, anywhere,” he said.

Lest we forget, Gilas also has Ange Kouame, who is just waiting to be called for another tour of duty with Gilas.

Before the sixth window, Gilas was in dire need of bigs with Japeth Aguilar nursing an injury, Carl Tamayo being absent, and Kai Sotto, who recently joined the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B.League, begging off. 

While small ball can do some damage the way it did for Gilas against Lebanon and Jordan, it may also backfire against the bigger and stronger foes in the Worlds. And if it comes to filling up a position with size, Reyes can tap the 6-foot-10 Kouame. 

All this naturalized player conundrum is a “good problem” for Reyes and co. before the World Cup unfurls in August.