Ella Fajardo commits to Fairleigh; Gilas program sees the benefits
MANILA, Philippines–National team member Ella Patrice Fajardo signed with Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), an NCAA Division 1 school in the United States, as she got to fulfill her lifelong dream that could best serve the Gilas Pilipinas women program in the long run.
Left out in the cold was National University (NU), which has been chasing the 5-foot-5 Fajardo in a bid to further strengthen its UAAP dominance. But Lady Bulldogs coach and national mentor Pat Aquino sees no problem with what has developed.
“I am very proud and excited for her,” Aquino told the Inquirer over the phone, hours after Fajardo announced on her Instagram account her decision to sign with FDU. “That’s an NCAA Division 1 program and she can have high-quality education there also. It’s not a big school, but the basketball program they have is solid.
“She will eventually be a big help to the national team in the future.”
That was the same sentiment of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio: “I am very happy for Ella. It’s not an easy feat making it to a Division 1 school. Her growth as a player will only help our national team.”
Fajardo was part of the Gilas Pilipinas women squad that competed in the 2019 Fiba 3×3 Under-18 World Cup in Mongolia.
“I haven’t spoken to her yet. But knowing her, I know she’s still committed [to Gilas],” Panlilio said when asked if Fajardo would still be available for national team duty while in college.
“It has been my dream to get a quality college education and to be able to play at the Division 1 level,” the 17-year-old wrote on her Instagram account. “My story has not been easy and I am working hard every day to prove myself over and over and to earn every victory and success that come my way.”
Fajardo is set to join an FDU Knights team that won just 13 of 30 games in the Northeast Conference before the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as she becomes the second of Aquino’s wards to play outside of the country after Jack Animam committed to Shih Hsin University of Taiwan for a master’s degree.
Aquino admitted that NU had wanted to sign Fajardo, whom he described as an “intelligent point guard who plays with all her heart probably to offset her size disadvantage.”
“She has great decision-making skills,” Aquino said when asked of Fajardo’s greatest quality.
This decision of hers to sign with FDU is a testament to that.
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