PBA: Brownlee still an import

Photograph by Rio Deluvio for the Daily Tribune @tribunephl_rio JUSTIN Brownlee is eager to play as a local player following the completion of his naturalization process.

Despite the successful completion of his naturalization process, Justin Brownlee of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel will still be treated as an import when he competes in the Philippine Basketball Association.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial yesterday said league rules state that naturalized citizens are not allowed to suit up as local players or see action in the season-opening Philippine Cup.

In fact, Gilas Pilipinas’ first naturalized player in Marcus Douthit was barred from competing as a local player, prompting him to serve as import when Air21 tapped him in 2012 and Blackwater paraded him in 2015.

Aside from Brownlee and Douthit, who got naturalized in 2011, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas also worked on the naturalization of Andray Blatche in 2014 and Ange Kouame in 2021.

“As of now, he remains as an import,” Marcial told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation.

“In our league, naturalized citizens are treated as imports. That’s what happened when Marcus Douthit played here and Andray Blatche expressed his willingness to suit up on social media. We treated them as imports even if they are already naturalized.”

Marcial said allowing Brownlee to see action will disrupt the playing field.

“Okay, let’s say that we allow Brownlee to play as a local player in the coming conference,” he said.

“It’s going to be unfair to other teams because Ginebra will have Brownlee as a local and another player as import. So technically, they will have two imports playing at the same time.”

Brownlee doesn’t hide his desire to be treated as a local player following the success of his naturalization process last week.

No less than President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed into law the Republic Act 11937, or the act that grants him Filipino citizenship, last Thursday.

On Monday, he took his oath of allegiance before Sen. Francis Tolentino, formally making him a Filipino citizen who is eligible to compete in major international tournaments like the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and various FIBA events.

But the PBA is a different story.

“I wish I could,” Brownlee said in a television interview when asked if he can suit up as a local player and see action in the Philippine Cup.

“I guess I could talk to Commissioner Willie about that.”

Regardless of his status, Brownlee, a three-time PBA Best Import, vowed to work hard to help Gilas Pilipinas in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers next month as well as the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in May, where the country is looking to regain the gold medal.

“I can’t believe this day finally came and I’m excited for this,” he said.

“So just feeling grateful and thankful.”

Marcial, however, stressed that their door remains open for Brownlee.

“Who knows, maybe in the future he can,” the PBA chief said.

“But for now, we have a policy and we will abide by it to be fair to everybody.”

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