COACH Pat Aquino is confident that he has the right tools to carry the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team to a strong finish in the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Changsha, China from May 23-26.
“These are the best players that we have,” said Aquino, program director of women’s basketball for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and head coach of the NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP.
Aquino graced Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Amelie Hotel-Manila, and was joined by members of the Changsha-bound squad – Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos and Clare Castro.
The team will be pitted against lower-ranked Chinese-Taipei, Samoa and Vanuatu. The goal, according to Aquino, is to top the bracket and advance to the second phase.
“If we advance, then we will face the tougher teams like Japan, China and New Zealand,” said Aquino in the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Braska Restaurant, Tapa King, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). “You have to qualify to the main tournament. The goal is to make it there.”
Aquino, who holds the UAAP record in the women’s division with 80 consecutive wins as a coach, described his team as currently “the best that can represent our country in women’s 3-on-3.”
Pontejos, a 22-year-old from Centro Escolar University, is a “pure shooter” who saw action in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup; Animan at 20 is the youngest but with five championships with the Bulldogs in the UAAP; Bernardino, also of NU, is a three-time MVP in the UAAP; and Castro, of FEU, is the tallest at 6 feet 4 inches.
“We will try to reach the next phase,” added Aquino, who is also looking forward to forming the best team for the 30th SEA Games in Manila in November.
“Probably this will be the same team for the SEA Games. They will also be part of our 5-on-5 team,” said Aquino.