MANILA, Philippines – His stint in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) may have lasted just two games, but Ira Brown still has very fond memories of Filipino fans.
Brown, now a naturalized Japanese citizen who plays for the Akatsuki Five, had a two-game stint for San Miguel Beer all the way back in the 2011 PBA Commissioner's Cup. He returned to Manila for the first time since then this weekend, when Japan took on Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
He was thrilled to return, especially after getting to play in front of a packed crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday.
"I love it," said the 35-year-old Brown. "It's something that I look forward (to), because it gives me energy."
"I played in the PBA also, and I remember the energy the crowd gives. It was great to be back and play in the Philippines," he added.
Brown was mostly solid in his 28-minute stint for Japan. He had 16 points and eight rebounds, and keyed their strong start that saw the visitors surge to a 20-4 lead in the first quarter.
However, he was mostly a non-factor in the second half, and was ultimately outplayed by the tandem of Andray Blatche and June Mar Fajardo. Gilas claimed an 89-84 win, and kept Japan winless in the qualifiers.
"I thought we were in the game," said Brown.
"But me missing free throws -- 2-of-10 -- that's terrible," he admitted. "I can't do that if we want to beat teams, especially on the road. I gotta do a better job at that."
Indeed, Japan could have stolen the win had they been better at the foul line. Brown missed eight of his 10 attempts, and the Akatsuki Five as a whole made only 24 of 39 free throws in the five-point loss.
Brown also pointed to their rebounding woes as a reason for the loss. Gilas had 47 rebounds in the game, 19 of which came on the offensive end. That led to a whopping 21 second-chance points for the Filipinos.
"You can't give opponents a lot of second chances and expect to win," said Brown. "Free throws, we can get better in that. But rebounding, that's the main focus right now. We have to be better in rebounding."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.