Coach says busy sched boosts Gilas Women SEA Games buildup
MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas Women is headed for a hectic 2022 just the way head coach Pat Aquino wants it.
Gilas is set to compete in two major tournaments next year in the Fiba Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament in February and the Hanoi Southeast Asian Games in May.
“It would be very helpful for us coming into the SEA Games. We had the same situation in 2019 with all those tournaments in the Fiba Asia, to the pre-qualifiying tournaments in New Zealand, and the SEA Games,” said Aquino during the PSA Forum on Tuesday.
“So looking forward, that’s where our preparation for the SEA Games will be coming from,” added Aquino, who along with the rest of the team, is just completing the mandatory quarantine after coming off a stint in the Fiba Asia Cup in Amman, Jordan.
The Philippines is the defending champion in the region after winning its first women’s basketball gold in 2019 and Gilas is hellbent on retaining its title.
“We fought so hard for it so we really need to defend the crown,” said veteran guard Janine Pontejos.
“Definitely, I would love to be a part of that gold medal (team). We have a great program going for us,” said newcomer Camille Clarin, who made his debut for the squad in the Asia Cup where the Philippines was able to keep its Division A spot.
Aquino hopes to finally have his star center Jack Animam back for the qualifiers as well as the United States-born Filipino Mai-Loni Henson, who is a former University of Washington Huskies standout.
Animam is currently playing in Serbia’s pro league.
Promising playmaker Ella Fajardo, who also had her maiden stint with Gilas Women in the Asia Cup, however, won’t suit up in the qualifiers due to her commitments with US NCAA Division I school Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Aquino also hopes that the team’s breakthrough gold in the SEA Games will be enough to convince Philippine sports officials to send a women’s basketball team for the 2022 Asian Games, which will be held in Hangzhou, China in September.
“We deserve to be playing for the country in the Asian Games,” he said.
Get the hottest sports news straight into your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.