Just call me
Ella Patrice Fajardo is aware of the uphill battle female basketball players are facing.
She saw it first hand, growing up in the United States and playing the game at the age of 9 and then again during her brief stay in the Philippines to train for the Under-18 national team.
“It’s a true statement,” Fajardo told the Inquirer when asked of the glaring difference between the reception of men and women’s basketball. “Even here in the US, the women do not really get support and funding as much as the men’s side does. It has been an uphill battle to raise awareness for equality and for [acceptance].”
Which is why Fajardo couldn’t stress enough how committed she is to keep flying the Philippine flag. It’s her way of helping all of those who played before her for flag and country, and more importantly, her means of giving back.
“I will be available anytime they need me,” Fajardo said when asked if playing again—for the women’s national team this time—is still possible now that she has committed to an NCAA Division I school.
That’s because she sees just one reason why her coming stint with Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) was made possible.
“My playing experience with Gilas at the Fiba 3×3 competitions was a big part of why I was recruited by good schools here in the US,” the 5-foot-6 point guard said.“If we didn’t have this pandemic, we were supposed to compete in Fiba 3×3 competitions again this summer. [My] dad and I were already getting ready to fly back to Manila for training.”
The 17-year-old was discovered by the recently-departed Nic Jorge and Gilas women’s deputy Julie Amos in one of BEST (Basketball Efficiency and Scientific Training) Center’s summer camps in Manila. She was a part of the U-18 3×3 teams that competed in the World Cup in Mongolia before winning a bronze in a Fiba tournament in Malaysia.
“I think I made a good first impression,” Fajardo recalled. “[I] was one of the few girls enrolled who could actually play and was very competitive. I really wanted to show that girls can ball.”
Fajardo joins a growing number of amateur national cagers set to play overseas. She announced last week her commitment to play for Fairleigh Dickinson.
Through FDU, Fajardo believes she can forge a future that could help her on and off the court.
“[Q]uality education is very important to my whole family,” she said. “I’m currently looking towards choosing among nursing, physical therapy (PT) track, or a bachelors plus masters track in business and finance.”
“My interest in PT came from knowing therapists who help out in our basketball training,” Fajardo said. “The business track is the influence of both my parents. Dad’s an entrepreneur and mom’s an accountant.”
Fajardo is a dual citizen who was born to immigrant parents. Her dad Allan is from Quezon City, while her mom Ellen is from Bacolod who both moved to the United States in 2003.
Her decision to join FDU spurned offers from Yale and even National University, among others. But just like what Thirdy Ravena said during his introductory press conference with San-En Neo Phoenix where he is due to play as an import, it’s all about following your heart.
“I believe the bottom line of the [recruitment] process was finding the right fit and to go where you are very wanted,” she said.
“It is a big bonus that it is close to home,” said Fajardo, who resides in New Jersey. “I never really thought much about where I would end up geographically in college, but with the pandemic happening, it is certainly nice to be near family.” INQ
It’s all about giving back and helping promote women’s basketball as far as Ella Patrice Fajardo (right) is concerned. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO