Cone turns to Bennie Boatwright as backup for Justin Brownlee


IN SEARCH of additional ammo, Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone is turning to the talented import who helped San Miguel Beer dethrone his PBA club Ginebra in the last Commissioner’s Cup — Bennie Boatwright.

Mr. Cone said Mr. Boatwright, who ultimately powered the Beermen to the championship after their 3-0 semis sweep of the Gin Kings, is a perfect fit for Gilas, much like Justin Brownlee, the naturalized player he will back up in this pool.

“I was the one who asked for him,” Mr. Cone said of the 6-foot-10 prospect on Sunday.

“I think he is a tremendous talent. He’s got great size. And he can play in and out. He is very versatile. Kinda reminds me of a young Justin, just three or four inches taller,” he added.

Mr. Boatwright, according to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Alfredo “Al” Panlilio, has agreed to come on board as a naturalized player.

“We will start the process,” said the SBP chief.

Like Mr. Brownlee, the 27-year-old Mr. Boatwright will have to go through legislative proceedings, which could take several months.

“It is usually a long process — three, four, maybe eight months, we don’t know. It took Justin a long time to get his,” said Mr. Cone.

The Gilas mentor maintained it would still be Mr. Brownlee in the lead role in his four-year program.

“Without a doubt and this is written in stone right now — Mr. Justin is our guy. And Bennie is going to be his backup, just like Justin was the backup to Jordan Clarkson in the (FIBA) World Cup. So we are going with that at the moment,” said Mr. Cone.

Pending Mr. Boatwright’s naturalization, Mr. Cone said it would be ideal if they can have him in training.

“When we go to Latvia (for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July), it’s going to be Justin being the guy doing it,” he said.

“But if we could get him (Mr. Boatwright) into practice and get him involved in the system (we would) so that if something, God forbid, happens to Justin, he can be ready to step in. So that’s the plan. We don’t know when he’s going to be available or when we can do it. It’s not going to happen ‘til he gets his naturalization papers in and that’s still a long process.” — Olmin Leyba