PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Shortly after losing Southeast Asian Games gold medal, Gilas Pilipinas Women team announced that it is bringing in a big gun for major international tournaments ahead.
Gilas head coach Patrick Aquino told Daily Tribune that Filipino-American playmaker Vanessa de Jesus will be one of their three new recruits in three major international tournaments ahead.
De Jesus is no ordinary player.
After a stellar high school career in Sierra Canyon School, the same school that produced the sons of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the 5-foot-8 De Jesus joined Duke University, a program that is teeming with basketball tradition with National Basketball Association standouts like Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Shane Battier topping the long list of its distinguished alumni.
She is playing a key role in the Blue Devils’ attack this season after playing all 32 games in which she averaged 5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 assist.
Aquino said they will insert De Jesus in the lineup when they see action in the FIBA Asia Women’s Cup, the Williams Jones Cup and the 19th Asian Games.
“We’re looking to bring in Vanessa, who plays for Duke and we know how a great basketball program this school is,” Aquino said.
Aside from De Jesus, Aquino is also looking to add Louna Ozar and Jhazmin Joson.
‘We’re looking to bring in Vanessa, who plays for Duke and we know how a great basketball program this school is.’
A 5-foot-8 shooting guard, Ozar played for the Philippine under-18 team last year in India where she averaged 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and two assists.
The 19-year-old Ozar had also already committed to play for University of the Philippines for Season 85 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines this October.
Joson, on the other hand, has been previously invited by the Gilas women’s team and her inclusion will be a major boost to the squad that got dethroned by Indonesia in the SEA Games despite winning five of their six matches.
Aquino hopes that the women’s basketball event of the SEA Games will adopt the format being used by in the men’s event in which teams are divided into two groups with the top two advancing to the crossover semifinals to determine who will clash in the gold medal match.
Still, Jack Animam, one of the longest-serving members of the team, sees a promising future.
“I just missed them for a year, but it felt like forever. I’m so happy to rejoin this team,” Animam said.
“It’s like family. It’s difficult even though we have Facebook or Instagram, it’s different being with them physically, that you can be with them, having fun with them, whether playing or doing off-court activities.”
Animam made a great return and brought in the skill set he developed playing in the French League while fellow mainstays like Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Clare Castro and Chak Cabinbin as well as rising stars Ella Fajardo, Camille Clarin, Khate Castillo, Stefanie Berberabe and Angel Surada were also able to step up on occasionally.