MANILA, Philippines -- After playing against Justin Brownlee in multiple playoff series in the PBA, Meralco guard Chris Newsome is now embracing the opportunity to team up with the much-loved Barangay Ginebra import.
Newsome and Brownlee are included in the 24-man pool of the Philippine mens' national basketball team for the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers next month. Gilas will play Lebanon on February 24 and Jordan on February 27, with both games taking place at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Brownlee is widely expected to make the final 12-man line-up for both games, in what will be his debut for the Philippines after being naturalized earlier this year.
Though there's no certainty that Newsome will join him in the final roster, the Meralco guard said it is already a big deal for him just to practice with Brownlee.
"JB is in that line-up now, so I'm excited to suit up with him and get to practice with him and learn as much as I can from him," said Newsome, who has repeatedly battled with Brownlee in the PBA playoffs.
"He has a lot of experience, and he's one of the best imports that I've ever played against. So I'm just gonna be a sponge and try to absorb as much information and knowledge from JB that I can," he added.
Though they are rivals on the PBA stage -- with Meralco and Barangay Ginebra having played in the finals several times already -- Newsome freely admits that he looks up to Brownlee.
The 34-year-old Ginebra stalwart has been the standard for imports in recent years, having gone six-for-six in finals appearances with the Gin Kings. Most recently, he powered the perennial crowd favorites to the Commissioner's Cup title, where they outlasted guest team Bay Area in a seven-game finals series.
"Definitely, it's always nice to be teammates with someone that's accomplished so much. He knows that I look up to him, and whenever we're out on the court, we're always gonna compete," said Newsome.
"But whenever we're teammates, we're looking forward to that even more."
Gilas Pilipinas began its preparations for the sixth window this Monday, although Newsome took the day off after having played for Meralco in the PBA Governor's Cup on Sunday.
The former Ateneo de Manila University star assured that he is fully committed to the national team cause, however.
"I'm 100% committed to playing for the flag and for the country, and I'm always gonna give my best anytime that opportunity arises," he said.
Newsome, 32, played for Gilas in the July window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers where he averaged 1.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in two games.