Anyway I look at it, whatever group the Gilas Philippines women’s basketball team could have gone into in the coming FIBA Asia Women’s Cup, it will definitely be an uphill climb for them.
In the 2019 edition of this tournament, the team finished seventh behind some of Asia’s and the world’s powerhouse teams. The truth is, at the recent Tokyo Olympics, four Asian teams, including runner-up Japan, which lost to the United States in the finals, plus Australia, China and Korea, made it to the Top 10, and they will all be in Amman, Jordan for the FIBA Cup.
The Philippines is in Group B together with China, Australia, and Chinese Taipei. The Filipinas will play the Chinese in their very first game on September 27, followed by the Aussies the next day. On the other side (Group A) are Japan, Korea, New Zealand and India.
I had a recent conversation with head coach Patrick Aquino and some of his players when they trained at the Summit Golf and Country Club’s plush indoor court in Lipa City prior to leaving for Jordan.
And all of them harbour no illusions of doing a podium finish, not against that level of opposition. But one thing they all promised is they would give it their 100% effort and see where it takes them.
The team will certainly not lack in heart and effort, but the odds are simply too much against them. Aside from the powerhouse teams competing, Patrick and his girls certainly lack the proper training as their bubble camp will only be for around two weeks .
Anyone can tell you that it will never be enough going up against world-class competition, but Patrick, much as he would have welcomed a longer preparation, has no choice but to play the cards he is dealt with. And for that he thanks the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, together with Butch Antonio, Ryan Gregorio, and Sonny Barrios.
According to Patrick, the team will also feel the effect of starting center Jack Animam’s absence as she took a leave of absence to play as an import in a Serbian team in Europe.
Also, there is no Fil-Am player with the team. The prospect was 6’1” Mai-Loni Henson from the Washington University, but conflict of schedule did not permit her the opportunity.
Afril Bernardino, one of the country’s best players, said she and her teammates will simply follow what their coach tells them to do on the court with a 100% effort.
Shooter Janine Pontejos, knowing she has been scouted in the past by the other teams, admitted she has to work on something new to surprise their opponents.
Court general Chack Cabinbin, the player from Lyceum whom I have always said was Johnny Abarrientos in a woman’s body, has to play beyond her small height to get the team to play together.
What is unfortunate is the fact that women’s basketball here was supposed to be on the upswing as a result of the Philippines’ historic gold medal finish in the 2019 South East Asian Games, which the country hosted here.
I can only hope and pray for our team as they sally forth and do battle in Jordan.
Now, just for an update of our “Ayuda Sa Atleta” program, we have already started giving out eco bags to regular national athletes after starting off with the differently-abled ones, with the Gilas women’s team receiving theirs just before they went to Lipa City for training.
So far, the sports that have already received their share include baseball, triathlon, duathlon, judo and kurash. We are still waiting for other NSAs to get in touch with us, me at 0920 9241981.
We reiterate our thanks to all our donors, led by Jean Henri Lhuillier, Tom Carrasco, Rommel Sytin, Efren Tan and others. It has not been easy, but we are doing it and will continue to do it. Special thanks, too, to Alex Wang, Nino Sinco and Karen Tanchanco Caballero.