MANILA, Philippines -- After steering the Gilas Pilipinas women's team to a breakthrough gold in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, coach Pat Aquino is confident that the program can only improve in the future.
He took steps to ensure that the team will continue to be competitive through a two-day tryout in California last weekend, with several Filipino-American NCAA Division 1 standouts taking part.
The tryout was organized by Fil-Am Nation Select and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. The 14 players who attended not only got the chance to showcase their skills, but also learned of the requirements they need to fulfill in order to be eligible to play for the Philippines.
"Now, women are really wanting to participate in (the national team)," Aquino told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play," shortly before the start of the first day of tryouts.
"I'm just happy that the interest is coming out already. Hopefully more would come out, and maybe one of these days, they'll play for the national team. That would be very exciting," he added.
Aquino stressed that the tryout in California is just the beginning as they continue to try and improve the women's program.
He continues to monitor the progress of the national team players based in the Philippines, and is confident that the entry of more Fil-Ams into the squad will benefit them.
"Inviting all those rookies from different Division 1 colleges, it excites me kasi 'yun na 'yung future ng Pilipinas. And not only that, it doesn't mean na iiwanan natin 'yung nasa Pilipinas," he said. "It will help them also."
"I think this is the start of something bigger (that will) happen," he added.
Moreover, several Fil-Am players who could not make it to the tryout remain in consideration for places in the national team. Among them are Duke University's Vanessa de Jesus and WNBA hopeful Chanelle Molina.
Aquino plans for the national team to start practicing in July for the 2021 Southeast Asian Games, where they will defend their gold medal in Vietnam.
It is unlikely that any of the players who tried out last weekend will be able to fly out to the Philippines. Rather, Aquino hopes to bring the Gilas Women abroad for a camp.
"We're trying to figure out the options," he said. "We (want to) play abroad or we could train abroad."
"But we have to start training in Manila first. So once we train in Manila, we can go train abroad already. That's our initial plans," he added.