5 possible player alternatives to fill Justin Brownlee's shoes

MANILA, Philippines – Having played a pivotal role in securing the Philippines' first Asian Games basketball gold medal in over six decades, Justin Brownlee's future with the team now dangles by a thread, marred by the ongoing doping controversy.

Chris McCollough and RHJ
Chris McCollough expressed his ultimate desire to play for Gilas while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was highly considered by SBP prior to committing with Jordan. Photo Credit: SB Nation

The resident Brgy. Ginebra import returned a positive test result for the banned Carboxy-THC substance during a random drug test administered by the International Testing Agency (ITA) on October 7, a mere day after clinching the gold medal at the Asian Games.

Brownlee can request a B-sample analysis to prove his innocence, but failure could lead to a two-year ban from FIBA-sanctioned tournaments and PBA games.

Amidst Brownlee’s impending penalty, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) could look into potential contingencies to sustain Gilas Pilipinas’ momentum.

Here are five potential replacements who could step in for Brownlee in the upcoming international competitions if he is unable to avoid FIBA's sanctions:

1. Angelou Koume

The former Blue Eagle big man is the closest and most viable option that SBP possesses at the moment.

Despite joining France's Chartres Metropole, the SBP maintains the right to summon the Filipino-Ivorian center for national duty, in keeping with the standard practice for Filipino players competing overseas, including Pinoy B-League hoopers.

Kouame was a solid addition to the Asian Games roster as he provided massive support for June Mar Fajardo underneath the basket most especially in the gold medal match against Jordan.

Gilas Pilipinas however, won’t be able to rely solely on Kouame offensively as he’s not as explosive as Brownlee in this department. Coach Tim Cone will need a steady local scorer who could augment Kouame’s presence on the floor.

2. Chris McCullough

NBA veteran and former San Miguel import has been truly vocal about his desire to play for the national team through the naturalization process.

McCullough will bring both his offensive and defensive skills to the team as the 6’10” globetrotter averaged 24.0 ppg and 17.0 rpg during his tenure with the Beermen.

Should SBP heed the former Brooklyn Nets forward, Gilas will have to wait sometime for McCullough to don the national threads as the naturalization process is long and tedious despite the urgency.

3. Onyeka Okongwu

The Atlanta Hawks center has recently made a buzz in Philippine basketball after expressing his desire to be part of the national squad.

Okongwu flourished in his basketball career while being surrounded by communities of Filipinos and being mentored by a Filipino coach in the U.S. which fortified his intention to play for the Philippines.

With an average of 9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game in the NBA, Okongwu will surely be a good fit for Gilas Pilipinas.

However, Okongwu won’t be a quick fix for Gilas as he still needs to undergo the same naturalization process experienced by Brownlee and Kouame.

4. Myles Powell

If the naturalization system is just the same as other countries such as Qatar, Powell will be a big offensive booster for Gilas Pilipinas.

While he was not a fan favorite during his stint with the guest team Bay Area Dragons in the PBA, Powell showcased an impressive scoring average of 35.0 points per game. This remarkable scoring ability could potentially help bridge the gap that Brownlee's absence might create within the team.

5. Remy Martin

The former University of Kansas Jayhawk is 100% eligible to play for Gilas Pilipinas as a naturalized player and could play anytime as the Filipino-American baller has been outspoken about representing the flag and country.

Martin maintained a respectable average of 13.1 points per game throughout his entire collegiate career. This scoring ability is deemed more than adequate for international basketball competitions, particularly in continental tournaments.

The downside of acquiring Martin however is his height. But it will be easily compensated with big men like Kai Sotto and AJ Edu on the team.

Gilas Pilipinas is indeed in a tough situation at the moment. SBP and Filipino hoop junkies hope and pray that Brownlee passes his B-sample to keep the country’s basketball program going which is apparently on the right track.

If Brownlee can't prove his innocence, the SBP might request PBA teams to be more generous with player loans and encourage overseas Filipino players to be more open to playing for the country, providing a practical solution.

Certainly, having Jordan Clarkson on the team is another win-win solution for Gilas Pilipinas. The Utah Jazz guard, however, is heavily occupied and committed to fulfilling his NBA duties.

In the midst of the current setback, the Philippines retains its Asian Games basketball gold medal, as clarified by the ITA. According to Asian Games rules, team sanctions only apply when two players commit a drug testing violation, and in this case, it was solely Brownlee who had an issue with the anti-doping test.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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