Jack Animam return boosts Gilas Women’s stock | Inquirer Sports

Jack Animam return boosts Gilas Women’s stock

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:20 AM April 27, 2023

Jack Animam

FILE – Jack Animam during the 3×3 basketball event in the 30th Southeast Asian Games. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Just how much Jack Animam’s return has energized the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team could be gleaned from the way team captain Janine Pontejos tried to wrap her spindly arms around the national squad’s globetrotting star.

“She’s back,” Pontejos said, “and she gives us a lot more confidence.”

The 6-foot-3 center has been out of the national program for quite some time after career opportunities opened for her and health concerns kept her out of the court. Animam played professionally in Serbia and then suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that took a while to rehab because the coronavirus pandemic struck.

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Once health protocols were eased worldwide, she found a new job in France’s women’s pro league.

In between all of that, Animam missed linking up with her national teammates as they successfully defended their Southeast Asian Games crown last year.

And she’s making the most out of her return.

“I mean, what excites me the most is just to be with them, play with them, experience the day-to-day life with them,” Animam told the Inquirer after a training session recently. “I think that’s the biggest thing I missed because, for the longest time, I’ve been with them, since 2015. And then pandemic happened, and I had the opportunity to play outside the Philippines and then I had an ACL [injury].”

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‘Fomo’

Gilas Pilipinas Women in the 31st SEA Games. SBP PHOTO

Gilas Pilipinas Women in the 31st SEA Games 5×5 basketball. SBP PHOTO

“It’s like I missed a lot,” Animam said, then jokingly added: “I experienced ‘Fomo’ (fear of missing out) because of that. So I’m just so excited to see them, play with them, and be on the same court with them.”

Her teammates have embraced her return, too, as she impacts the level of play the national women’s team is capable of flaunting.

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“Now that Jack is back, it’s really a big thing for us. We really missed her game,” said Afril Bernardino, the veteran forward who is one of the most skillfully gifted players on the team.

Animam provides the team with a lot of scoring, rebounding and defense. Apart from that, she throws in a pinch of wisdom from her experiences playing abroad.

“I think what I’ve learned [from playing professionally abroad] is confidence,” she said. “When you have that confidence, you can bring yourself everywhere. You think it’s going to be easier for you.”

Pointers

“And the little things, when I’m watching them,” she added. “I’ll see something and I’ll say, maybe you can do this, maybe you can try this. I’m just sharing my knowledge with them, whatever I learned on offense and defense.”

These pointers have become helpful for young members of the pool, who rely on Animam and other team veterans to build on their games and their knowledge of coach Patrick Aquino’s system.

“Me coming in from the States, that’s a lot of experience. But at the end of the day [I’m going into] a system that I’m not necessarily used to,” said Ella Fajardo, a gutsy, sweet-shooting guard from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. “So honestly a lot of [my veteran teammates], not just one or two, a lot of them, when I’m at the sideline, they’ll help me out and they really step up for me.”

“The experience (training with the veterans) is really good because I also get to learn,” said Ateneo standout Jhazmin Joson, who has one more year of eligibility in the UAAP. “And it will be beneficial to me because I’m still playing in the UAAP so I grow more.”

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