Pat Aquino sees stronger Gilas women’s program

Published January 16, 2021, 9:25 PM

by Waylon Galvez

National University women’s basketball head coach Patrick Aquino (Photo from UAAP)

Gilas Pilipinas women’s coach Patrick Aquino said that the opportunity he got in discovering new talents in the US with Filipino lineage will be big in the continued development of women’s basketball in the country.

With the help of Fil-Am Nation, a private group formed by Cris Gopez – cousin of PBA player Alex Cabagnot of San Miguel Beer – that assists aspiring Filipino players in the States, Aquino has visited a number of communities and Division 1 schools in the US NCAA.

“It’s good thing siguro that I’m here now,” said Aquino, who has been in the US for several weeks, as he guested online in the Saturday sports show The Chasedown on One PH over Cignal TV.

“Noong nanalo ng tayo ng gold medal in the Southeast Asian Gmes (2019), sabi ko mukhang maganda na ang future (of women’s basketball). But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“But if I didn’t move here, na slow down na naman, walang mangyayari. It’s a start na kailangan ko gawin to bring up women’s basketball. I hope yung ginawa ko now would be big for women’s basketball,” he added.

Aquino is set to visit Duke University, where Fil-Am sensation Vanessa de Jesus is currently a starting guard.

De Jesus, a 5-foot-8 playmaker, is a highly touted recruit of the Blue Devils out of Sierra Canyon. She has expressed her desire to play for women’s Gilas Pilipinas in future international tournaments.

Aquino said he already had an initial discussion with Duke coach Kara Lawson, a former WNBA player and gold medalists with the USA women’s team, and part of their conversation is the possibility of Duke visiting the Philippines for a clinic and exhibition games.

“I’ve been talking with Duke University and they really wanted to come and bring Duke,” said Aquino, who will go to Duke next week. “I talked to coach Kara (and on my visit there) it would be a good conversation.”

Aquino, a six-time champion in the UAAP with the undefeated National University, said that although he has seen a lot of talented Fil-Am players, he said local talents can compete against these ballers.

He said the possibility of having the foreign players would only solidify the roster of the national team.

“It’s a good problem actually. We have talents (in the US) that they’ve never heard, that they’ve never seen. All the talents back home can compete here in the US, hindi lang natin nasusurportahan,”

“A good problem because we can mix them up (foreign and homegrown) to form a strong team not just for the Southeast Asian (competitions), others are looking up to us now.”

Aquino said that his US trip is made possible with the all out support of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas led by its president Al Panlilio, and women’s national team backer Dioceldo Sy.

He said that with so much talent in the US, this may open the possibility of having them play here for college with different UAAP teams, as well as forming a league for women’s basketball.