Jack Animam questions surplus of naturalized basketball players in SEA Games
PHNOM PENH—Jack Animam was quite surprised when she bumped into former WNBA player Meighan Simmons at the dining hall of the athletes village.
Just a few months back, Animam and Simmons grabbed a few drinks after a tournament in France and tried to catch up with each other.
“She (Simmons) told me that she’s going to play in Asia, but I wasn’t expecting to see her here,’’ said Animam after the Philippine women’s 3×3 basketball team netted the silver medal following a 21-16 defeat at the hands of Vietnam in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
“I approached her and she told me that she’s playing for Cambodia,’’ added Animam, who played for the Union Sportive Ouvriere Mondeville Basket in the Ligue Feminine de Basketball in France.
Starring the 6-foot-5 Animam, Afril Bernardino, Mikka Cacho and Janine Pontejos, the PH women’s team defeated Simmons and the Cambodian squad in the semifinals that set them up for a title showdown with Vietnam.
Simmons, a 5-foot-9 guard out of University of Tennessee, played briefly for New York Liberty, Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream in the WNBA before taking her talents to Europe.
Animam has nothing against Simmons, but feels that beefing up a national team with an array of naturalized players has its downside.
The Philippine men’s 3×3 team of Almond Vosotros, Joseph Eriobu, Lervin Flores and Joseph Sedurifa dropped their gold-medal match on Sunday against a Cambodian side strengthened by American pro dribblers Dorsey Darrinjay, Sayeed Pridgett and Brandon Jerome Peterson.
“I think if there’s going to be a lot of imports like these, the essence of the SEA Games will be gone. For me, the SEA Games is a venue to show the talents that you have in your country,’’ said Animam.
“What are the SEA Games for if we’re not fielding our own homegrown talents,’’ added the 3×3 and 5×5 champion in the 2019 SEA Games.
The women’s team will be defending its SEA Games title in the 5x 5 for the second time around with Animam and her teammates quite ready for what to expect.
“We know that there will be naturalized players (for Cambodia) in the 5x 5 and we will not be surprised. We prepared for this and this is what we do,” said Animam, a prized find by multi-awarded women’s national coach Patrick Aquino at National University.
“Regardless of the opponent, we’re ready to play,’’ she added.