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Tim Cone sees young Justin Brownlee in Bennie Boatwright as former SMB import undergoes Gilas naturalization process

Bennie Boatwright reminds Ginebra and Gilas coach Tim Cone of Justin Brownlee during his "rookie" PBA season. Dennis Acosta (file photo) 
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY—Coach Tim Cone was impressed at how Bennie Boatwright turned things around for San Miguel en route to capturing the PBA Commissioner's Cup title.

The Ginebra gaffer witnessed it personally as the Beermen swept the Gin Kings out of last conference's semifinals.

The explosive game of Boatwright during his stint prompted Cone, also the national team head coach, to inquire about naturalizing him for Gilas Pilipinas.

"I was the one that asked for him," Cone bared on Sunday night, a day after initial reports surfaced that Boatwright is now part of the Gilas naturalized players pool and is now beginning his naturalization process.

"He was excited about doing it."

Cone even said that Boatwright reminds him of Justin Brownlee when he first stepped foot in the PBA in 2016 but only taller.

"I think he's a tremendous talent. He's got great size, and he can play in and out. He's very versatile. It kind of reminds me of a young Justin just three or four inches taller," Cone said of the 6-foot-10 power forward.

However, Cone added that the full effect of having Boatwright, who is currently seeing action in the CBA for Shanxi, in Gilas' fold could only be achieved if he joins the practices very soon.

"We have to get him into practice and get him into the system, but that's a long way away. That's not going to happen tomorrow, next month, and in June or July when we go to Latvia," Cone further said.

For now, though, Brownlee remains the main naturalized player for Gilas.

"Without a doubt—and this is written in stone right now—Justin is our guy, and Bennie is going to be his backup just like Justin was the backup to Jordan Clarkson in the World Cup," Cone further said.

However, he also wants Boatwright to be ready in case Brownlee suddenly becomes unavailable.

"If we can get him into a practice or two and get him involved in the system so that if something does—God forbid—happen to Justin or something like that, he can be ready to step in. That's the plan," Cone further said.

For now, a waiting game ensues.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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