JUSTIN Brownlee acknowledged the love showered on him upon his return to the Philippines, but knows there's a lot of work to do with less than two weeks to go before the opener of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
Brownlee appeared in public for the first time since coming back to the country last Tuesday from the US where he stayed for almost four months shortly after leading Gilas Pilipinas to the historic basketball gold during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
The Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player said he's been trying to stay in condition even if he was away from the country as sooner or later, his services will be needed by the team as it embarks in two international tournaments for the year.
Aside from the Asia Cup qualifiers, the national squad is also preparing for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Riga, Latvia from July 2-7.
"Just been trying to do whatever I can, at least on conditioning. I couldn't really get on the court with a trainer or the team, so I'm just really trying to focus on running and just trying to stay in condition," said Brownlee as he held a mini-presser at the Smart Araneta Coliseum during halftime of Game 4 the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals between Magnolia and San Miguel Friday night.
"Right now, I feel good, I feel rested. I feel healthy."
The six-time PBA champion import of Barangay Ginebra was greeted with a warm welcome when he entered the Big Dome early in the first half of the game, and sat at ringside along with San Miguel Corporation sports director Alfrancis Chua and commissioner Willie Marcial.
Just before the start of the third quarter, Brownlee was presented with a symbolic basketball at midcourt by Marcial, Chua, San Miguel governor Robert Non, and Games and Amusement Board chairman Atty. Richard Clarin.
Brownlee was full of emotion upon hearing the chants and applause given him by the capacity crowd at the venue.
"It feels good. I have been waiting for this moment for the past few months," he said. "Happy to come back and be greeted with a lot of love. I've been waiting for this moment for a while, and I'm just happy to be back."
Brownlee leads the 12-man team assembled by coach Tim Cone set to compete this year starting with the Asia Cup qualifiers on Feb. 22 in Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei on Feb. 25 at the Philsports Arena.(RG)