PATRICK Aquino is just in awe of how far former National University star Afril Bernardino has come in her women’s basketball career.
From a humble baller from Cainta, Rizal, the 5-foot-8 dribbler has emergenced as the face of the Lady Bulldogs' dynasty in the UAAP and a pillar in the national team.
After Thursday, you can add trailblazer to her resume.
Bernardino was given the Award of Excellence by the UAAP-NCAA Press Corps during the 2018 Chooks-to-Go Collegiate Basketball Awards at The Bayleaf Intramuros - the first woman player to receive the honor.
Aquino was one proud mentor as he watched the ceremony from up close.
“Syempre sobrang proud ako kay Afril na na-recognize siya ng media for her achievements. In the past, wala naman na ganito eh. Sobrang nagpapasalamat ako sa Press Corps na nabibigyan niyo na kami ng pansin at yung mga girls for the hardwork they did in the past,” he said.
The architect of NU’s dominance in the UAAP women’s hoop wars said that if it wasn’t for Bernardino, the Lady Bulldogs’ championship reign wouldn’t have been possible.
“We didn’t really expect na magiging ganito siya, but on our part, yung athleticism na nakita namin the first time she played, talagang meron. It was a good foundation for us when we got Afril and buti na lang nagkaroon ng resulta. Nag-champion kami and every year na nandyan siya, siya ang MVP.”
NU has won the UAAP women’s basketball title since Season 77 with Bernardino winning three straight MVPs until her graduation in Season 79. NU has gone unbeaten over than span - a streak that reached 64 wins en route to a fourth title.
Bernardino’s contributions even extended to the halfcourt game, with her leading NU to the first ever UAAP 3x3 last season, as well as suiting up for the Philippine team in the 2018 Fiba 3x3 World Cup.
Aquino hopes this award bestowed on Bernardino would serve as a game-changer for the often-neglected women’s basketball scene in the country.
“It’s very fulfilling on my part as a coach na nagkakaroon na rin kami ng recognition and sana, it will be an eye opener for everybody para makita yung girls na naglalaro talaga ng basketball. Sana magbukas pa ito ng pinto para sa mga batang babae na hindi lang volleyball ang laro, but basketball also.”
Considering everything she has accomplished, there’s no doubt in Aquino’s mind that Bernardino is without a doubt the face of Philippine women’s basketball.
“It’s good for the women na meron tayong ganitong klaseng atleta na hindi lang nare-recognize here in the Philippines but around the world already for all the hardwork she does personally to be on that level,” she said.
“She’s the best in her era. There’s a lot of women na magagaling in the past, but Afril has been great in this era and hopefully magkaroon pa tayo ng next Afril in the future.”