JACK Animam will be back with Gilas Pilipinas Women for the loaded 2022 schedule.
Coach Pat Aquino confirmed the development on the heels of the Philippines' seventh place finish in the 2021 Fiba Women's Asia Cup.
"We're already talking with Jack. Sabi ko wag mo kalimutan yung country natin. Sabi naman niya she'll be here in February. It's just a matter of scheduling," he said on Tuesday's Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
Gilas Women is bracing for a stacked schedule next year where it is looking to defend its gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, as well as potential stints in the 2022 Fiba Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournaments and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Animam is now signed with Radnicki Kragujevac in the First Women's Basketball League of Serbia.
Through two games, the 6-foot-2 Bulakenya has been solid for her side, posting an impressive 24.5 points on 71-percent shooting from the field, on top of 13.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 34.5 minutes of play as her team currently sports an even 1-1 card.
"It’s amazing. We see what she’s doing right now. I didn’t expect from the start na magiging ganoon agad yung laro niya. But you know, that’s what Jack is. Alam mo naman kung paano maglaro si Jack, talagang todo lahat. And I’m just happy for her," said Aquino.
Aquino expects much improved Animam
Aquino shared that like what he did in their time in National University, he only gives Animam tough love, motivating her to do more in her first professional foray.
"Every time na tumatawag siya, di ko siya kino-congratulate. Pinapagalitan ko siya and I always tell her to more. I say to her na don't be satisfied, learn from it, and do more on the things that you can do. It's just a matter of keeping what she's been doing and do more and I know that she can flourish there," he said.
Animam's presence was sorely missed in Amman as an undersized Philippine team got whipped by the likes of eventual silver medalist China, world No. 3 Australia, and Chinese Taipei in Group B action, before coming away with a 74-70 win over India in the battle for seventh place and remain in Division A.
Nonetheless, Aquino is firm in his belief that this exposure for the former UAAP MVP can only be beneficial for the national team as it seeks to continue being competitive in the continent.
"I think it’s very big kasi sabi ko nga, big na nga siya, big pa yung nilalaro niya," he said.
"Yung experience niya na nakukuha ngayon would rub off to the likes of Clare Castro, yung mga bago natin like sila Karl Ann Pingol, and those people na gusto pang bumalik. So sana lang magawa niya nang maganda para makatulong talaga dito sa team natin."