Pat Aquino anchors future of Gilas Women’s program on recruitment | Inquirer Sports

Pat Aquino anchors future of Gilas Women’s program on recruitment

/ 05:25 AM July 02, 2023

Gilas Pilipinas Women Fiba Asia Cup

Gilas Pilipinas Women at the Fiba Women’s Asia Cup in Australia. FIBA PHOTO

National coach Pat Aquino has readjusted his expectations—and his hopes—after the country’s sixth-place finish in the Fiba Women’s Asia Cup in Australia.

“I think the gaps are closing for us,” he said after the Gilas Pilipinas women dropped an 80-71 defeat to South Korea in Saturday’s classification game at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre. “I hope this spark would burn like a big burn in the coming years.”


He’s not the only big dreamer in the squad.


“This sets the tone for the next Fiba Asia [Cup],” said Jhazmin Joson, a new recruit out of Ateneo who has been a revelation for the squad.

“I’ve heard a lot of things in the past. Before, we’d just get blown by so much, but now we’re right there—with them. I think it’ll be good competition for the next few years,” she added.

While there will be those who will sneer at the 1-4 (win-loss) record the team will take home, the finish is still remarkable once context is applied.

Since being promoted to Division A back in 2015, Gilas has figured in relegation games, notching wins there to retain their top-flight status. It was only last Wednesday, when the Nationals stunned old tormentor Chinese-Taipei, that the program notched a victory in the group phase.

“That game woke them up,” Aquino said.

More promising

Gilas Pilipinas women Fiba Asia Women's Cup

Gilas Pilipinas women in their game vs New Zealand in the Fiba Asia Women’s Cup. –FIBA ASIA

Even more promising was the way the Filipino women handled the next two games against higher-ranked squads.


Looking for a historic first semifinal appearance, Gilas lost to world No. 29 New Zealand by just five points. And world No. 12 South Korea needed a late breakaway to seal its victory against the Philippines.

Afril Bernardino led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Khate Castillo and Jack Danielle Animam both finished with 12 each.

Joson added nine points.

“[T]he turnaround was a great feeling for everybody,” Aquino said. “Again, four of the teams here played in the Olympics and the World Cup. I think it’s about time for us to be belonging with the best.”

Now, the indefatigable coach is looking at crucial next steps the program must make to build on this year’s finish.

“Recruitment,” he said of his next plans. “It’s not just in the Philippines, but all over the world, like in Australia. There are a lot of Filipino-Australian girls playing basketball. There have been so many invites already just to see them.”

“Hopefully, we could do a bigger setup for that and find new talent for the future,” he added.

Meanwhile, the men’s team was set to battle Ukraine on Saturday (Sunday midnight in Manila) in a friendly showcase at Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania, hoping to cash in on the lessons it picked up in Estonia.

Run through gauntlet

National coach Chot Reyes underscored the need to run through a gauntlet of good teams in Europe in order to get familiar with the kind of pace that teams in the World Cup are going to be springing this August.

“I think it’s really just a matter of getting used to the Fiba pace,” he said. “We’re still on the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) pace, PBA starting pace, that’s why these games are valuable to us.”

“We can show it on video, we can explain it all we want but unless they actually experience and feel how hard these teams start from the tip, from the get-go, only then [they’d understand],” he went on.

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The last time the Philippines battled Ukraine resulted in a 114-64 defeat which Reyes now refers to as a transformative experience for the Gilas squad that competed in the 2014 World Cup in Seville, Spain.

TAGS: Basketball, FIBA Asia, Gilas Pilipinas women

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