JACK Animam’s journey isn’t just her own. It's for every little girl out there dreaming to take on a field dominated by men.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Philippine women’s basketball was finally on the rise.
The female Gilas squad brought home double gold from the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December, while a couple of collegiate games in the UAAP were shown on television for the very first time. The Women’s National Basketball League PH (WNBL) was also just a few steps away from successfully putting up a professional league.
The sequence of events has trained the spotlight on the surging momentum of women's hoops.
Last April, Jack also announced that she’s already committed to play overseas, taking her talent as a foreign student-athlete in Taiwan once games resume.
“Eto na talaga, ang layo na ng narating namin, sobrang saya lang," the National University star told SPIN Life. "Ako kasi, I’ve seen it from before na family and friends lang ang andyan to watch out games. Tapos unti-unti, nagi-improve talaga, nate-televise then nung SEA Games, halos mapuno ‘yung MOA Arena na women’s ‘yung naglalaro."
She added: "Lahat ng past players na nag-represent ng women’s basketball, ito na talaga ‘yung trinabaho namin before because this is what we really want.”
Before she became one of the faces of women’s basketball, Jack revealed that she, too, had been reluctant to play hoops back in high school.
“Badminton player ako tapos one day bigla na lang akong pinatawag sa principal’s office," the 21-year-old reminisced. "Gulat ako at kinabahan kasi never naman ako napatawag before. ‘Pag dating ko tinanong lang ako kung gusto ko raw ba maglaro sa basketball team kasi kulang sila. Sabi ko, ‘Ayoko po, sir, paglaruin niyo na po ako ng kahit anong sports ‘wag lang ‘yon.'
“Hindi ko talaga siya gusto kasi ang thinking ko noon, panlalaki ‘yon, tapos ‘yung mga naglalaro non, tomboy, eh hindi naman ako tomboy. Pero gustong-gusto ko na umuwi kaya sabi ko, sige na nga, wala naman mawawala sa akin."
That's when her basketball journey began. As a high school freshman, Jack didn’t know what to expect from the sport. She wasn't used to running and shooting a lot. But thanks to her teammates, her adjustment became bearable.
“Nase-stress talaga ‘ko ‘nung nagsisimula pa lang, sabi ko parang di ko talaga kaya yan. Pero ang nagpadali talaga sa'kin, ‘yung teammates ko na naging friends ko. Tapos ayon unti-unti, di ko namamalayan nagbabago na ‘yung quality ng game ko and natututunan ko na ‘yung skills ko.”
It took her a few months to convince herself of her capability as a baller. Now, she's become one of the country's top stars.
For now, Jack only has two wishes. First, she wants the limelight to continue for the sport. She also wants fans to judge the game as fairly as possible.
“Sana, ‘wag nilang tingnan on the same level ang men’s and women’s play," explained Jack. "Ibang-iba ang laro ng babae. Same game pero magkaiba. I just hope nakikita ng mga tao ‘yung hard-earned skills ng mga babaeng ballers. We are fun to watch, too.”
She adds: “Sobrang daming batang babae ang nag-a-aspire maging basketball player, kaya gusto kong sabihin, na ‘wag kayong mapagod. Mahirap sa ngayon pero sooner of later, you will see the bigger picture. A few years from now, we have the potential to do the World Cup, to be in the Olympics.”
This lockdown may be the longest pause she’s had from basketball, but she won't let the hiatus dampen her drive to do more to represent the women’s play — be it for the country, or even for girls across the globe.