Gilas Pilipinas Women will have its hands full by 2022 as it competes in two major international tournaments, including the Hanoi Southeast Asian Games where it is the defending champion.
Coach Pat Aquino said the grind begins for the national squad by mid-November for the 2022 qualifying tournament of the FIBA Women’s World Cup set on Feb. 6 to 14, although the venue of the competition has yet to be named.
Aquino and the rest of the team that just came from its FIBA Asia Cup campaign in Amman, Jordan, are just finishing their mandatory quarantine protocols, after which they will sit down and meet with top officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to discuss what is expected to be a busy calendar for Gilas Pilipinas Women next year.
The 50-year-old national coach told the weekly online session of the PSA Forum that he already had initial talks with SBP Special Assistant to the President in Ryan Gregorio regarding the plan moving forward.
“The SBP is very supportive of us in our coming tournaments. And I’m very happy to hear that. We’re just waiting and looking forward, preparing all the plans and getting all the players for the tournaments again,” said Aquino, joined in the public sports program by national stalwarts Janine Pontejos and Camille Clarin.
Right off the bat is the qualifying meet for the Women’s World Cup to be hosted by Australia from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1. Aquino hopes to have 6’5” regular center Jack Animam back in the team, along with US-born Filipina cager Mai-Loni Henson, a former University of Washington Huskies standout. Animam failed to suit up in the FIBA Asia Cup as she’s currently playing pro ball in Serbia.
Ella Fajardo, the rookie playmaker from Duke University, won’t be making the qualifier, however, due to her commitment in the US NCAA.
But the foremost priority of the team is definitely retaining the SEA Games title in Vietnam in May after finally winning the gold for the first time ever during the 2019 edition of the biennial meet here in Manila.
“Pinag-hirapan namin ‘yun kaya kailangan naming mai-defend ‘yun (ang korona),” said Pontejos in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, Daily Tribune, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
“Definitely, I would love to be a part of that gold medal (team). We have a great program going for us,” added Clarin, who played for Gilas Pilipinas women for the first time in the last FIBA Asia Cup.
Aquino believes the hectic schedule lined up for the team in the coming months would be good for Gilas’ SEA Games title retention bid, recalling how the same timetable helped the Filipina cagebelles to finally score a breakthrough gold in the regional showcase.
“It would be very helpful for us coming into the SEA Games. Ganyan din ‘yung nangyari sa amin nu’ng 2019 with all those tournaments in the FIBA Asia, to the pre-qualifiying tournaments in New Zealand, and the SEA Games,” said the Gilas coach. “So looking forward, nandiyan ‘yung preparasyon natin sa SEA Games.”
And to cap everything, Aquino hopes the Filipina cagebelles will finally be allowed to play in the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China in September.
Winning the SEA Games, according to them, perhaps could be enough to convince Philippine sports officials for them to be given the go-signal to compete in the quadrennial sports meet.
“We deserve to be playing for the country in the Asian Games,” said Aquino.
Gilas Pilipinas women managed to retain its spot in FIBA Asia Division A after rallying for a 74-70 win over India two weeks ago in Jordan.