JACK Animam has been a stabilizing force for National University's run this UAAP Season 82 that her absence was truly felt on Wednesday for Game One of the Finals.
Animam's status for Game Two remains in doubt, as coach Pat Aquino was non-committal if the Mythical Team member will be cleared for action.
"She's not here yet," shared coach Pat Aquino. "Hopefully, she's gonna be here next game."
The 6-foot-2 forward suffered an orbital fracture on her right eye after an inadvertent elbow during Gilas Womens' game against Korea in the 2019 Fiba Women's Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Saturday in New Zealand.
Animam remained in Auckland for further testing as Aquino and the rest of Team Philippines returned to the country.
Fortunately, no surgery will be needed and is expected to return to the country by Game Two.
"She has to stay there first for precaution. She's being examined day-to-day," said the multi-titled mentor. "Hopefully, she comes back before Saturday."
Aquino shared that it pained Animam to miss the championship series, with the Lady Bulldogs gunning for a sixth straight title and a 96th straight victory.
"Sabi niya, 'Coach, kayo na bahala dyan.' Sabi ko naman, 'This is for you.' She was really say not coming back. She's been part of the NU five-peat and now, she's not in the championship. She really felt bad. She wanted to play today," he said.
The team, however, made sure Animam was still with the team in spirit, wearing warmers bearing her numbers for the game against the Golden Tigresses.
NU sorely missed Animam's contributions as she's been averaging 15.0 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks this season, but it led to other players stepping up, with Kelli Hayes leading the fray with her 16 points.
"They have big shoes to fill, not just Kelli. The girls worked harder today and I think they were in control of the game," he said. "I'm just very happy lang talaga."