Gilas belles in transition

The Philippine Star
Gilas belles in transition
Ella Fajardo

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas women’s team is out to hit two birds with one stone in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, vowing to pour it all against a stacked competition while starting to lay down the foundation for its future with a bevy of youth standouts.

Coach and program director Pat Aquino said it’s about time to groom tomorrow’s Gilas fate with prized US NCAA guard Ella Fajardo leading the way when the Nationals slug it out against favorites Australia, China and Chinese Taipei in Group B.

“More than anything, the team will compete and give their all but the main goal is to build our Gilas program around our younger players like Fajardo by giving them the exposure and opportunity they deserve. They will be the next big thing,” Aquino told The STAR.

Aside from the Fairleigh Dickinson U standout Fajardo, National U aces Camille Clarin, Karl Ann Pingol and Kristine Cayabyab will make their 5-on-5 debuts in the Asia Cup set Sept. 27 to Oct. 3 in Amman, Jordan after their previous 3x3 stints.

Afril Bernardino and Janine Pontejos provide leadership as Gilas veterans, but Aquino added that the early and quality exposure would only help them and the program big time down the road.

“It will definitely be an uphill climb whether we are in Group A or Group B. The quality of competition is very high especially against teams who just competed in the Olympics,” he said.

Apart from the loaded Group B, the Asia Cup also has an equally stacked field in Group A featuring New Zealand, South Korea, India and reigning champion Japan, which also finished second to USA in the Olympics.

Gilas is currently intensifying its preparations under a bubble set-up at the Summit Point Golf and Country Club in Lipa, Batangas with the arrival of Fajardo before flying to Jordan next Tuesday.

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