With the pandemic forcing Patrick Aquino to look into homegrown talent, Gilas Pilipinas Women brought in four young guns for its campaign in the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
Twenty-year-old Camille Clarin, 19-year-old Ann Pingol, and 18-year-olds Kristine Cayabyab and Ella Fajardo were called up for the continental meet that takes place in Amman, Jordan.
With a young core, Afril Bernardino and Janine Pontejos have stepped up to be the mentors to the quartet.
“Yung sinasabi lang namin sa kanila, matuto lang sila every day,” said Bernardino, who has been with the national team for five years, on The Game.
“Gawin lang nila yung gusto nilang gawin and yung mga advice ni Coach Pat sa mga plays, mga options na pwede gawin, additional na lang ‘yun.”
“Mas nakaka-excite kami panoorin kasi first time namin sila makakasama, first time rin nila kami makakasama,” said Pontejos.
Other veterans in the team are Afril Bernardino, Chack Cabinbin, Khate Castillo, Clare Castro, Ria Nabalan, Janine Pontejos, and Andrea Tongco while Mar Prado is set to make her FIBA debut.
Tough will be the opposition for the Filipinas as they face world no. 7 China on September 27 followed by no. 3 Australia on the 28th and no. 34 Chinese-Taipei the next day.
For Bernardino and Pontejos, it’s no longer about just racking up the wins — it’s about inspiring the next generation of Filipinas to enter the sport. And they hope that they can do so in the Asia Cup.
“Patuloy niyo lang abutin yung mga pangarap niyo. Kung may gusto kayong gawin, gawin niyo lang habang bata pa kayo,” said Bernardino.
“Kahit na maraming nagda-down sa inyo, gamitin niyo as motivation din na i-improve yung sarili mo.”