Gilas Women news
"As of now, meron na kami na go signal from [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] president Al Panlilio and masayang masaya ako dun. Sabi niya, kuha ka na ng naturalized mo and sabi ko thank you," the concurrent program director gleefully shared.
Aquino is still weighing his options on whether he'll enlist a foreigner to be naturalized or fill it with overseas-based players with Filipino blood but failed to gain local status.
But the list is growing, among them Duke's Vanessa de Jesus, Michigan's Laila Phelia, Cal Berkeley's Amaya Bonner, George Washington's Aurea Gingras, and Penn's Kayla Padilla.
There's also Mai-Loni Henson who is considered a naturalized player in Fiba-sanctioned competitions and even Kelli Hayes who last saw action in the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019.
Those concerns are part of Aquino's itinerary when he heads to the United States this Dec. 14 for a month-long trip, first scouring for talent while also keeping tabs with his players there.
"Walang pahinga. I'll be going around talking to the other players like Gabi Bade, Stefanie Berberabe, sila Ella [Fajardo] what are their plans? Are they coming back? Am I hoping? Am I expecting you to be here?," he said.
"Kakausapin ko rin sila and I'm gonna watch games, not just the senior games but even yung mga under-16 and under-18 ko, dadalawin ko sila like si Gabby Ramos, Kristan Yumul, Naomi Panganiban, Sumayah Sugapong, and the like. So it's gonna be busy."
But it's not just overseas which Aquino is keeping his eyes on as he also plans to extend invites to the local players who are showcasing their talents in the ongoing UAAP Season 85 women's basketball tournament.
"Definitely, I'm really preparing and I've already made a list sa mga coaches ko sa mga sesendan ng invites," he said.
Among those notables which Aquino have mentioned were Ateneo's Kaycee dela Rosa, UST's Eka Soriano and Tacky Tacatac, and La Salle's Lee Sario.
"For the country naman," he said, joking that he previously recruited a few of these players back when he was still handling National University.
Of course, holdovers like Afril Bernardino, Khate Castillo, and Janine Pontejos, and the returning Jack Animam are all still there, making the competition to make it to the Gilas Pilipinas Women roster all the more stiff.
To Aquino, though, he sees it as a good problem that the pool is expanding with the growing appreciation for women's basketball in the country.
"It's not just getting players from abroad now. We have local-based players right now. And it's good because when I go around the provinces, marami akong nakikitang mga players na lumalabas na enthusiastic sila about playing basketball, girls who like to play basketball," he said.
"Maybe that's siguro because of yung work namin nila Jack, lahat ng Gilas Women na talagang nakikilala na nang pakonti-konti. Hopefully, more will emerge. Yun naman yung goal natin sa Gilas."