From high school basketball powerhouse Sierra Canyon to Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Academy to Duke University, Vanessa de Jesus is excited to suit up for the Gilas Women's basketball team.
After securing her Philippine passport last month, the incoming college senior announced on Tuesday morning (Los Angeles, US time) that she is joining the country's women's national team this summer for the upcoming FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
"I’m excited for the opportunity to suit up for the Philippine national team. Two of the most important things in my life are family and basketball. And since I was young, I understood this growing up. My family has been a huge part of who I am," she said in an online conference.
"Having the opportunity to represent both on a national level is something I’m very excited about. And I’m very excited to go both as a player and as a leader by competing at this global stage," she added.
De Jesus said she felt this decision was the "right timing" for her.
"Now, it’s just going out there and playing. And I feel like it’s going to help me grow as a player," she said.
While suiting up for the Philippines has been a dream of hers, De Jesus said she was inspired by her Duke Coach Kara Lawson who has won Olympic gold with Team USA as a player and as 3x3 basketball coach.
"Just seeing all that she’s done so far, at every level, she’s a winner and got so many crazy experiences. And seeing how far she’s come in and how she’s grown as a coach and as a leader, that's something I hope to gain from this experience as well," she said.
In her three years at Duke, De Jesus has averaged 5.1 points per game along with 2.3 rebounds, and 2 assists over 66 games. In the past season, the Blue Devils advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"I’ve always been a winner since high school. I’ve won state championships. I’ve won in AAU. And I think that experience and the relentlessness to win is something that I can bring to the table. And just competing and always giving it my all is something I value and hope to bring to the team," she said.
De Jesus will be joining coach Pat Aquino and the Gilas women’s team in Melbourne, Australia later this week. They will play against host country Australia on June 26.
De Jesus said she’s excited to meet her teammates, and she is familiar with Jhazmin Joson, who also grew up in Southern California.
In events like the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games, de Jesus can be fielded as a local.
De Jesus had expressed her interest in joining the Gilas Women in 2020, with Aquino saying the guard is "very welcome."
Her parents are both Filipinos, but she was born in the United States. She entered Duke in 2020 as the 37th-ranked player in her recruiting class.