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Clarin, Cayabyab, Pingol out to prove they belong in Gilas Women

The Gilas Pilipinas Women team that will compete in the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, which begins tonight will be different from previous batches.

Not lined up in this squad are veterans like Gemma Miranda, Allana Lim, Eunique Chan, or even Jack Animam and Danica Jose.

Instead, there are four players who are 20-and-below in the team – namely 20-year-old Camille Clarin; 19-year-olds Kristine Cayabyab and Ann Pingol; and 18-year-old Ella Fajardo.

Being called up though was a surprise for Clarin, Cayabyab, and Pingol as they did not expect to play for the seniors team this early.

“Na-surprise po kasi ‘di ko po inexpect na isa ako sa magre-represent ng Pilipinas, although nung high school naka-represent na ko. Pero iba kasi rito elite na. Kumbaga, so bagong experience and motivation to work harder,” said Pingol, who previously played for the country during the 2019 FIBA 3×3 Under-18 World Cup.

“‘Di ko masyado naisip na ganito kaaga. Ang naiisip ko kasi talaga is after college pa,” added Cayabyab.

“Tingin ko kasi marami pa akong dapat pagtrabahuhan.”

In Clarin’s case though, she had second thoughts about coming back home for Gilas.

“It felt amazing to finally be called up to the seniors team because it meant my dream was finally coming true,” the UAAP Season 82 Rookie of the Year expressed. “However, there were definitely second thoughts about saying ‘yes’ because the COVID situation in the Philippines was awful, to be brutally honest.

“In Canada, I had a gym to myself every day with zero COVID restrictions. Plus, I had only been home with my family for less than two months, a lot shorter than I hoped,” she continued.

“Regardless, I knew in my heart I couldn’t say no to the opportunity.”

Of course, there’s pressure for the trio to deliver in this tournament.

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Unlike the Men’s Asia Cup, the women’s tournament has a relegation system. The lowest-ranked team after the tournament will be demoted to Division B.

“Meron pong pressure, pero as much as possible sine-set aside namin kasi there’s no time to waste,” said the 5-foot-7 Pingol.

“Short lang ‘yung preparation kaya dapat maging focus.”

“‘Yung pressure po andyan siya palagi. Kailangan ipakita ko na worth it po ‘yung pagkuha nila sa akin,” continued the 5-foot-10 Caybayab. “‘Yung mga sumusuporta at nagbibigay ng tiwala sa akin, lagi ko po iniisip na dapat masuklian ko po sila.”

At some point during their youth team days, Clarin, Cayabyab, Pingol, and Fajardo teamed up but in the sport of 3×3. Because of their shared experience, they had no problem forming chemistry during their short camp in Lipa.

But their transition was easier with how welcoming the vets were to them.

“Honestly, it was the seniors who made the transition easy, not our familiarity as rookies,” said Clarin.

“For us four, it was a brand new feeling, but the vets knew that. So they did everything to make us feel welcome and comfortable.”

Tough will be the team’s competition in the group stages of the tournament as they face Australia, China, and Chinese-Taipei.

And the trio hopes that they can not just give their best in every game, but also inspire female ballers that anything is possible.

“Maibigay ko at maipakita ko ang aking best, and to make sure na ‘yung best ko will help the team. Kung anuman ‘yung need sa akin ng team, gusto kong maibigay yun,” said Cayabyab.

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“My personal goal is to contribute para matulungan yung seniors. And ‘yung sa team ay makapag-perform ng maayos, all-out sa game, and mag-stay lang together,” hopes Pingol.

“My personal goal is to just give it my all and never back down regardless of who the opponent is. We’re up against the best of the best so as a team we’re not going to hold back. We’re leaving our heart and soul on the court every time,” vows Clarin.

“We want to show the aspiring female ballers of the Philippines that the possibilities are endless despite the obstacles you see in front of you.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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