As a school that produces top guards from its basketball program, it should come as no surprise then that La Salle churned out two of the most sought after hoopers in the Chooks-to-Go Women’s National Basketball League Draft last Saturday.
Camille Claro and Khate Castillo, who were selected by Glutagence, were the second and third overall pick in the draft.
“Hindi ko ineexpect na magiging second overall pick ako,” said Claro, a 5-foot-1 floor general.
“Kasi ang daming mas magaling sakin. Super unexpected talaga. Nandon yung kaba, excitement, mixed emotions talaga. Kasi syempre hindi mo sure kung may kukuha sayo or wala.”
“I didn’t expect na ako yung pang number three kasi syempre madaming players na magagaling. Honestly, I feel a little bit nervous and excited since ito yung first ever women’s pro league and then when my name called I was shocked kasi yun nga what I’ve said earlier hindi ko ineexpect na I’ll be one of the top three picks,” said Castillo, a 5-foot-4 sniper.
Claro and Castillo have been teammates since 2013 and their highest point came in Season 79 when they helped La Salle reach the finals after a three-year absence. They also played together for WNBL club Paranaque and as part of the 2019 Gilas Women’s pool.
“Nasa bahay ako ng coach ko nung college (Cholo Villanueva) nung time na yon. Super saya ko nung natawag pangalan ko. And sa totoo lang after ko matawag hinihintay ko talaga yung third pick kasi winiwish ko talaga na sana si Khate Castillo yon. And nung siya na nga yung natawag grabe sobrang saya ko kasi mag kasama na naman kami,” said Claro.
“Nothing changes po,” said Castillo, who was part of the 2019 SEA Games champion squad.
“Andun parin yung excitement kasi para sakin sobrang comfortable ako sa kanya. And syempre andun yung chemistry namin sa isa’t isa.”
It was under Villanueva where both players made their marks as Lady Archers in the UAAP. Claro became a court general while Castillo evolved to become a fearsome threat from beyond the arc.
Quite understandably, their college mentor is very satisfied to see how far they’ve come in their careers.
“I’m very proud of them,” said the UAAP Season 70 champion. “It’s a testament to their hard work and countless hours on the basketball court working on their craft. They are reaping the benefits, being two of the top three most talented women’s basketball players in the Philippines.
“Both of them will bring their high basketball IQ and precise shooting skills to the WNBL being part of a system while standing out with their skill sets: Camille’s leadership and dictating the tempo of the game and Khate’s instant offense creating shots for herself and off screens.”
Claro and Castillo finished their respective Sports Studies degrees while competing in the UAAP. As student-athletes under Villanueva, they had to give 100 percent effort during their 6:00 AM practices as well as academics during the day. It was imperative that they fulfilled their side of the bargain.
As a protege of the legendary Pumaren system, Villanueva highlights the importance of discipline on and off the court. If players cannot follow the rules nor conform to certain standards, then the door is left open for them to find a new team.
“Madami akong natutunan kay Coach Cholo katulad ng eagerness mo every game and yung focus mo na kailangan mo mag improve every game and training,” said Castillo.
“Sobrang grateful ako kay Coach Cholo,” said Claro.
“Hindi lang ako naging professional athlete kung di naging better person din ako. Yang si Coach Cholo akala niyo patawa tawa lang yan pero super strict niyan — mala–‘Coach Carter’ yan.”
Claro, in particular, is an example of the reality facing these professional female cagers as she will now be forced to work hard in accomplishing her dream as on the court while fulfilling her deliverables for her day job.
“I’m an HR practitioner right now,” she explained. “Actually last year before ng pandemic nag wowork ako at the same time nag te-training sa La Salle (team ko sa WNBL) nakakapagod pero di mo na ganon maiisip dahil yung love mo for the game eh.
“Thankful ako dahil yung company na napasukan ko eh open na man for sports. Actually supportive sila kasi madami din athlete na nag wowork sa company namin. So I think mababalance ko naman yung work and basketball.”
Aside from the two gunners, Glutagence also selected Nicky Garcia and Camille Ramos, who were the seniors of Claro and Castillo back in their collegiate days. It always helps to work with familiar faces especially in a team that is building up from scratch.
“I think it would be exciting, to be honest I’m always fascinated playing with my former teammates kasi we are comfortable with each other since galing kami ng DLSU, pero syempre during the pandemic tumigil kami sa paglalaro,” said Castillo.
“It will be difficult for us to adjust sa situation natin ngayon pero syempre we will do our best to bring back the chemistry we had during DLSU days. As of now, we want na magfocus sa magiging system ng team.”
With the 2021 WNBL season to tip-off later this year, the two guards are very eager to demonstrate their capabilities in front of a wider audience. Aside from helping Glutagence tally wins, they also have to show why they were selected that high in the draft in the first place.
“I feel nervous kasi first professional league, bago teammates, bago team and coaches. Pero I think hindi naman ganon kahirap yung adjustments dahil yung iba teammates ko na nung college and most of them are veterans,” said Claro.
“Basta I’ll do my best to help the team and win every game.”
“As a player, I think ang maco-contribute ko sa team ay yung pagiging positive lagi at i-enjoy yung game. To be honest, there’s always a pressure naman pero I’ll do my best talaga this season, I’ll play with all my heart para makapagcontribute sa team,” said Castillo.