The search for overseas Filipina basketball players, who are willing to play for flag and country, continues.
This has been the mission of Gilas Pilipinas Women coach Patrick Aquino, who has been in the United States since December.
“This is not just about the national team, but also about giving them an opportunity to study in the Philippines. Kapag walang opportunity sila sa Division 1 and 2 scholarships (NCAA), they can go home to the Philippines to study,” said Aquino in an interview with the Manila Standard on Facebook.
Aquino has been in touch with Fil-Am Nation, a leading basketball organization in the United States that represents Fil-American basketball players in the West Coast area.
US-based Filipino coach Cris Gopez, who is part of Fil-Am select, is helping Aquino get in touch with the Filipino cage community in the US.
Gopez, a cousin of Philippine Basketball Association veteran Alex Cabagnot, has helped many Fil-Am cagers find teams to play in the PBA in the past.
Aquino’s search has so far netted one promising prospect—Vanessa de Jesus, whose parents immigrated the United States decades ago.
The 5’8” De Jesus, who has a colorful career in high school, is now playing for the Duke University Blue Devils in the Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“They’re excited. Lahat ng nakita ko ay magagaling,” said Aquino, who added that these players need Philippine passports.
Over in the East Coast, Aquino is communicating with Fil-Am groups like NABA, Husay,and Edge.
Talks with these groups led to his discovery of Kayla Padilla, Mai-Loni Henson,and Amaya Bonner.
Henson, 23, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, was signed to play for Al Aplemont, a Division III French league team based in Le Havre, France last April.
The 6’1” Henson was already with the French squad starting last August. She will be with the team for a season until April 2021.
Padilla is a 5’9” prospect from Torrance, California and is now with the Pennsylvania University Quakers. She was named 2020 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, while also making it to the first-team All-Ivy League team.
Padilla became known as the highest scoring player for the Quakers following an impressive 273 total points over 14 games.