Old and new faces stand in Brownlee's way to PBA greatness

Still not getting over from the epic Finals series that featured some of the best imports the league has ever seen, a stellar cast of reinforcements is already set to take the Philippine basketball shores by storm in the 2023 PBA Governors' Cup which kicks off on Sunday, Jan. 22.

Justin Brownlee (middle) will be facing another stellar cast of imports led by KJ McDaniels (left), Jonathon Simmons, Michael Qualls and Ethan Rusbatch. (PBA Images / AFP Photo / Fiba)

After facing up against NBA-caliber imports in the likes of Bay Area’s Andrew Nicholson and Myles Powell, Barangay Ginebra resident import Justin Brownlee, the best import of the last Governors’ Cup, is bracing for another battle against new rivals who stand on his way towards his seventh PBA title.

Brownlee, fresh off a title with the Kings following a 114-99 Game 7 victory over the Dragons before a record 58,589 attendance, can become the undisputed greatest PBA import ever should he win another title to surpass Alaska import Sean Chambers, another Tim Cone disciple who had six titles and became the winningest PBA reinforcement in history.

The newly-minted naturalized Filipino, though, is taking on a mix of new and familiar faces this time around led by highly touted NLEX import Jonathon Simmons.

Simmons has the most impressive resume in this conference’s cast, having played for NBA teams Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers in four seasons spanning 258 games.

Aside from Simmons, other imports who are looking to make an impression in their first stint in the PBA are Converge’s Ethan Rusbatch, Terrafirma’s Jordan Williams, NorthPort’s Marcus Weathers, TNT’s Jalen Hudson and Magnolia’s Eric McCree.

Rusbatch isn’t entirely stranger to Philippine basketball having faced Gilas Pilipinas as part of the New Zealand national team during the qualifiers while Williams, Hudson and McCree are veteran players who all boast a wealth of experience from their stints in the G-League and European leagues.

Weathers, meanwhile, is the youngest of the batch who will be making his very first stint outside the US after going undrafted in the 2022 NBA draft where he was initially thought to be picked.

If there are new faces, the tried and tested old hands are also set for another tour of duty in the PBA led by the high-scoring Michael Qualls.

Making good impressions from his initial stint at NorthPort where he helped the team reach the semifinals for the first time, Qualls looks to do the same if not surpass it now with his new team in Rain or Shine.

Former NLEX import Cameron Clark is also donning a new jersey in his PBA return, joining the stacked San Miguel Beer lineup while teams like Meralco, Phoenix and Blackwater opted to bring back reinforcements they are already familiar with.

The Bolts will have KJ McDaniels following a solid run in the Commissioner’s Cup while the Fuel Masters and the Bossing stuck with their imports last season in Du-Vaughn Maxwell and Shawn Glover, respectively.

Qualls and McDaniels will raise the curtains in the season-ending conference as Rain or Shine takes on Meralco in the opening day before Weathers and Rusbatch make their PBA debut in the Converge-NorhPort duel in the second game.