WHAT does the Gilas Pilipinas women squad need to scale new heights? Coach Pat Aquino is convinced they need a naturalized player.
“I’m still looking for a new naturalized player, much taller one that could help us na wala tayo dito sa Pilipinas, iyong hindi natin makuha sa local or mga Fil-Am natin,” Aquino said last Tuesday in the online Philippine Sportswriters Association forum.
“We could have a possible naturalized player in the future,” he added.
Aquino, who is also the Samahang Baskebol ng Pilipinas program director for women, admitted finding players willing to get naturalized poses a challenge.
“Iyon ang problema natin ngayon,” Aquino said in the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corp., Milo, Amelie Hotel, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“Finding some players na will be willing enough to come here, willing to play for us.”
He said his former ward at National University, Rhena Itesi, a Congolese, was eyed to be a naturalized player for the Filipina belles.
“Rhena Itesi was one of them but then again, will she fit in the future?” Aquino said. “Sa akin, iyong mga bata na ulit ang makuha natin.”
Another Fil-Am player being considered is 6-foot-1 Mai-Loni Henson, who is a Filipina but was not able to obtain her passport before she turned 16 years old.
The Gilas squad shocked Thailand to bag its maiden gold in the final of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila in 2019.
The nationals will likely hit the ground running anew by mid-November to toughen up for the 2022 qualifying tournament of the FIBA Women’s World Cup set from Feb. 6 to 14, although the venue of the tilt has yet to be named.
The Women’s World Cup will take place from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1 next year in Australia.
Gilas retained its spot in FIBA Asia Division A after scoring a 74-70 win over India in the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Division A tournament two weeks ago in Amman, Jordan.