Justin Brownlee will hopefully move a step closer to becoming a naturalized player when he appears before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios said.
“My news for today is there will be a hearing tomorrow (Wednesday), and Brownlee will appear there,” Barrios said in Tagalog, while guesting at the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Rizal Sports Complex. “Let’s all pray that it (naturalization) will be approved, and hopefully on time (for the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers). It will be a big advantage if Justin is available and we’ll have more options for Window 6 in February.”
Barrios explained that this is the just the start of the process for Brownlee’s naturalization. “It all starts at the Committee on Justice in Congress. He has to make a personal appearance. Once approved by Congress, it will move up to the Senate. There’s a process. There are no shortcuts.”
Barrios is hopeful that the whole process will be finished in time to allow Brownlee to suit up for Gilas in February. “I don’t want to get ahead of our congressmen and senators. That’s the last thing we’d like to do. Let us allow them to do their job first. They know what is required. We are very fortunate that in both houses, the support for basketball is immense and unquantifiable.”
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The sixth window, where Gilas will host Lebanon on Feb. 24 and Jordan on Feb. 27, will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue. Barrios explained that this was already previously scheduled since the 55,000-seat venue will serve as one of the three venues for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“If you look back, the February (2021) window was at (Smart) Araneta (Coliseum),” Barrios said. “The August window was at the (Mall of Asia) Arena. And Window 6 at the Philippine Arena. Why? Because these three venues will be used for the World Cup. So by playing there, it serves as an OJT for our organizing committee.
Sixteen teams or four groups will play in the Philippines, while eight teams or two groups each will play in Japan and Indonesia. Barrios said two groups will play at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and the other two at the Mall of Asia Arena. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will be played at the Philippine Arena.
The draw for the eight groups, Barrios said, will take place in late April in the Philippines in what he said would be a “weekend festival.”
“The draw is the biggest event leading to the World Cup, outside of the World Cup itself,” Barrios explained. “In fact, as we speak, preparations are already being made, and communications between FIBA, our local organizing committee, and our co-hosts are very regular, very intense.”
In the previous draw for the 2019 World Cup, the late Kobe Bryant participated, and Barrios hinted at a similar atmosphere in April. “That draw will not be a simple technical draw. It’s going to be a weekend festival, and big entertainment names are being considered.