It’s now the Gilas women’s basketball team’s turn to take center stage as the country’s cagebelles represent the Philippines in the coming FIBA Women’s Asia Cup to be held in Bangalore, India from September 24-29.
The event will be a fitting preparation for the country’s build up for this year’s Southeast Asian Games, which will be held in the Philippines from late November to early December.
Leading the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team’s campaign is highly-touted US NCAA Division 1 player Kelli Hayes, who played for the UCLA Bruins.
A long-time prospect, Hayes will use her experience as she represents the Philippines in her first major international competition.
Aside from Hayes, several other local standouts were also included in the line-up headed by Jack Danielle Animam, a member of the multi-titled National University Lady Bulldogs team in the UAAP, who has also played in the national team program for four years now.
Hayes and Animam will lead the charge up front, but head coach Patrick Aquino will still count on his old reliables like Afril Bernardino and Janine Pontejos, two other players who had represented the women’s squads in different major international tournaments, including the FIBA 3 x 3 World Cup held at the Philippine Arena a few months ago.
Also in the line up are Gemma Miranda, France Mae Cabinbin, returning players Danica Jose and Bea Daez, Ana Alicia Castillo, Eunique Chan, Andrea Tongco, and Ria Joy Nabalan.
According to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio, women’s basketball has made some strides and improved by leaps and bounds.
“We’re trying to join as many tournaments as we can. We had a great coach in Pat Aquino. It starts really with the coach and then the coach identifies the program and the road map, that’s why he’s also my program director for women’s — both for 5-on-5 and 3 x 3 — So he will identify the talent that he needs also. We will continue to rack up the rankings for women’s, so we’re improving and we will continue to do so,” Panlilio told FOX Sports Philippines in an exclusive interview.
The FIBA Asia Women’s Cup will be a tougher tournament to deal with and the Filipinas are bracketed in the group of death, joining Australia, China and New Zealand.
As early as the opening day on September 24, the Philippines will face an acid test taking on the mighty Australian squad in its Group B match.
Gilas women’s squad battles China the next day at 5:45 p.m., followed by its final group stage match versus New Zealand at 1:15 p.m. on September 26.