Naturalized prospect Mai-Loni Henson is tipped to be deployed when Gilas Pilipinas Women squad sees action in the William Jones Cup.
Gilas head coach Patrick Aquino confirmed to Daily Tribune the possibility of bringing in Henson for the Jones Cup following the looming absence of stars Vanessa de Jesus, Ella Fajardo and Clare Castro as well as collegiate players Louna Ozar, Mika Cacho and Jhazmin Joson.
De Jesus and Fajardo are set to return to their respective collegiate teams in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association while the 6-foot-5 Castro is no longer reporting to the team.
Ozar, Cacho and Joson, for their part, will be rejoining their teams in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
Aquino said imports are allowed in the Jones Cup so parading Henson will not be a major problem.
“Teams are allowed to bring in imports in the William Jones Cup, so bringing in Mai-Loni there won’t be difficult when it comes to eligibility,” said Aquino, referring to Henson who has been in the radar of Gilas Women for the past four years.
The 6-foot-1 standout from University of Washington Huskies played six games for Aulnoye in the French League, where he averaged 10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
She was supposed to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the recent 32nd Southeast Asian Games but was still recovering from a calf injury.
Henson isn’t the only player Aquino is looking to bring in for the prestigious invitational tourney set to kick off on 5 August in Taipei.
He said he is also looking to deploy Gabi Bade — the daughter of former Philippine Basketball Association player Cris Bade — in the Jones Cup after helping them win the gold medal in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi in 2021.
Bade, who plays the wing position, is a dead shot from the perimeter just like her father who became one of the biggest stars ever to play for San Sebastian College and the Philippine Amateur Basketball League.
“We’ll communicate with them and try to bring them into the roster. We expect to miss several players in the Jones Cup and the Asian Games because the UAAP will begin their season by then,” Aquino said.
Henson and Bade will join forces with mainstays Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, Chak Cabinbin and Janine Pontejos, young stars Khate Castillo, Angel Surada and Stephanie Berberabe.