PAT Aquino was the least surprised when Perlas Pilipinas stalwart Jack Danielle Animam was listed among the five rising stars to watch in the FIBA Asia Women's Cup.
The Philippine women's team coach said there was no question the 18-year-old stalwart is deserving of the recognition that had her sharing the spotlight with Evelyn Mawuli of two-time defending champion Japan, Li Yueru of China, Zara Jillings of New Zealand, and Sara Blicavs of Australia.
And that a Filipina made it to the elite list is a testament to the country's reputation as a rising power in women's basketball in the region.
"I'm overwhelmed and honored that one of our players was mentioned," said Aquino on the eve of the team's departure for Bangalore, India for the Asia Cup starting on Sunday.
"It means that we are now already being recognized by the FIBA orgamization."
Everybody took notice indeed, when the Filipinas overachieved in Wuhan, China during the 2015 edition of the meet when they completed their promotion from Level II to Level I and be in the running for one of the five berths in the 2018 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup (Spain), which are what's at stake in the Bangalore tournament.
In the FIBA-Asia.com article, Animam was cited for her major work in Perlas Pilipinas’ magical run during the FIBA Asia Cup two years ago even at her young age of 16.
“But there is a real buzz around the fact she could be the short, medium, and most certainly, long-term anchor in the paint for the Philippines,” read the item.
“And the teenager has a big task as she tries to keep her country competitive around the hoop as they look to cause some surprises in the top flight.”
Animam played for Aquino at NU and helped the Lady Bulldogs clinched a third straight title last year via a sweep. She had 16 points and 18 rebounds in the title-clinching game against De La Salle, a 96-72 rout that stretched the team’s win streak to 48 straight games – one of the longest in the history of the UAAP.
Perlas is currently bracketed with reigning champion Japan, South Korea, and Australia in Group B.
The Filipina cagebelles will take the first crack against the Japanese on Sunday at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, followed by the clash with the Australians the following day, and then with the Sokors on Tuesday.
The team departs at 1 p.m. Friday for Bangkok on board Thai Airways. From the Thai capital, it will take a connecting flight for the two-hour travel to Bangalore.