MANILA – Filipino-American teenager Nina Emnace will proudly fly the Philippine flag when she starts her women’s basketball career with Harvard University in 2024.
Not even finished with her high school career yet, the 16-year-old Jersey Shore native, who has already committed to the Ivy League side, said she will continue to make sure Filipinas get the US NCAA Division 1 basketball spotlight.
“I definitely think that Filipino women are on the rise, and us, we are just making a statement around the world, and we’re going to start taking over the D1 platform, honestly,” Emnace said.
Emnace led the Fil-Am Nation selection past local powerhouse National University Nazareth School, 63-54 in the NBTC National Finals girls’ championship game at the Mall of Asia Arena last Sunday.
The 5-foot-6 Trinity Hall Monarchs guard scored 17 points in the final, leading an eight-player ragtag group that had to learn how to gel together on the fly.
“It is a well-earned win. The girls played hard, stayed disciplined, there were a few lapses but I think the girls overcame the obstacles. They played together as a team,” Los Angeles-based Filipino-Australian head coach Roger Mantua said of the title-clinching victory.
“Nina, they didn’t come until the day before. When we played a scrimmage against UE, we only had five players.”
Emnace averaged 19.54 points, 5.25 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.93 steals, and 2.29 three-pointers made in 28 games as a junior for the Monmouth, New Jersey-based Monarchs.
Throughout her weeklong stay in Manila, the scoring guard made friends with her teammates whom she never previously played with, and all the more realized how passionate Filipinos are when it comes to hoops.
“I can say that I’ve made some of my best friends in this trip, which means a lot because coming into this trip, I was kind of nervous meeting some of the other girls, but we got close,” Emnace shared.
“It was amazing. I definitely had the time of my life, and I definitely wouldn’t have been here without them, they played amazing and always had my back. We played together.”
Once Emnace’s stint with Harvard becomes official, she will be following the footsteps of overseas-based Filipinas who have seen action in the NCAA Division 1 level, like Duke University’s Vanessa De Jesus, University of Pennsylvania’s Kayla Padilla, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Ella Fajardo, and Dartmouth College’s Sofia Roman, to name a few.
It is a milestone she looks forward to, knowing an entire country proudly backs her and her dreams.
“(It) definitely means a lot. I am very excited and I love the coaching staff there. It should be an amazing experience,” she said.