Ginebra embraces underdog status

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is ready to play with an underdog mentality when it kicks off its campaign in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.

Justin Brownlee, a five-time champion and a two-time Best Import, will definitely have his hands full as he will be the shortest among the reinforcements who are going to see action in the import-laced conference that begins on 21 September.

Kings mentor Tim Cone is aware of the magnitude they will be facing they battle squads with imports as tall as 6-foot-10 as well as a very formidable guest squad that had gone undefeated in its friendly matches.

“Justin is doing great. He’s in shape and he’s ready to go,” Cone told Daily Tribune in an interview.

“We’re pretty much undersize. There’s a lot of really good, big, strong imports and we’re gonna go in this conference with an underdog mentality and make sure we’re doing the things we need to do. It would put a lot of pressure on Christian (Standhardinger) and Japeth (Aguilar) to play well, as well as Prince (Caperal).”

Facing bigger, stronger imports isn’t new for the 6-foot-4 Brownlee.

In fact, he already encountered this situation when he led the Kings to a 4-2 series victory over San Miguel Beer in their 2018 Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals showdown.

But this is a brand-new tournament and although the Kings were able to win the previous import-laced conference, Brownlee is still facing stiffer competition with several big-named imports headlining the tournament.

Thomas Robinson, import of newly-crowned Philippine Cup winner San Miguel, owns probably the most impressive credentials among reinforcements.

He was a first-round draft choice of the Sacramento Kings in the 2012 National Basketball Association Draft — the highest pick to play in the league since 1987 third overall choice Dennis Hopson signed up with Purefoods in 1996.

Listed 6-foot-10, Robinson, also a member of the Lebanese national team being included as a naturalized player, belongs to the same draft class that included Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal.

Also included in that same batch was Andrew Nicholson (19th overall), who will reinforce the visiting Bay Area Dragons.

The Dragons had won their eight tune-up matches and looked poised to become the first foreign squad to win a PBA title since Nicholas Stoodley in 1980.

Other notable reinforcements are former NBA campaigners Earl Clark of NLEX, Cameron Oliver of TNT Tropang Giga and Johnny O’Bryant of Meralco.

Clark played with Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers while Oliver suited up for the Atlanta Hawks and the Houston Rockets and O’Bryant for the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets and the Denver Nuggets.

Also seeing action are Steve Taylor Jr. of Rain or Shine, Nick Rakocevic of Magnolia, Cameron Krutwig of Blackwater, Quincy Miller of Converge, Prince Ibeh of NorthPort and Lester Prosper of Terrafirma.

Cone believes the Gin Kings will be up for a big battle, especially with the retirement of Joe Devance.

“It’s always this big import-laced conferences where we miss Joe Devance,” he said.

“But we’re hoping that Prince Caperal or Raymond Aguilar can step in and play some of the role Joe played in the past.”

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