This past season, the National University Lady Bulldogs ascended to legendary status in Philippine sports.
They captured an unprecedented sixth straight UAAP basketball championship with a perfect slate and extended their league winning streak to 96, a feat that will be hard to duplicate.
Maybe winning consecutive championships is somewhat doable, but doing it with perfect seasons? It’s almost unthinkable.
And it seems like the Lady Bulldogs are not slowing down. Considered as the best program in the women’s game, NU ensures continuity with the entrance of potential stars and exit of prominent names.
The winning, though, doesn’t stop in the UAAP. Their success spills over to the national team.
With its continuous production of high-level talent, it contributes to the sport’s development in the country.
Names such as Afril Bernardino, Ria Nabalan, and Jack Animam have been staples of a national squad that competed in both 3x3 and 5-on-5 international tourneys. Just this past SEA Games, they made history again by bringing home the country’s first gold medals in both events.
At the helm of the program is a leader determined to elevate the level of competition in women’s basketball.
Over the past few years, Patrick Aquino, head coach of the NU Lady Bulldogs and the women’s national team, has slowly raised the bar and brought greatness to a once overlooked sport in the country.
In an interview on the “So She Did” webcast, two of his best wards paid tribute to his excellence and leadership -- former UAAP MVPs Animam and Bernardino.
“Siguro para sa akin, malaki ’yung naitulong niya sa amin to motivate ourselves. Kung paano siya magsalita, kung pa’no siya mag-open up sa amin and siguro hindi lang niya kami tinitignan as players, more on family na rin,” Bernardino shared, regarding how the accomplished tactician influenced her as a player.
Aquino’s success is no accident. Adding to his exceptional work ethic is his genuine concern for his personnel.
On the court, he’s a different figure. Often when fans watch NU’s or the national team’s games, they see a person fully engaged, constantly barking instructions to his team. It’s this kind of meticulousness that really cultivated and strengthened the foundation of NU’s winning tradition.
“Kapag nasa court ka, magfo-focus siya kung paano niya kami tuturuan, kumbaga matututo ka talaga sa mga sasabihin niya.” Bernardino shared.
In Animam’s case, Aquino helped her transform into one of the best women’s players the country has ever seen, winning 3 UAAP MVPs and an equal amount of championships.
Armed with this type of intensity, the tenured coach would often get in the faces of his players. But Animam quickly assures that no bad blood lingers beyond the game.
“He may be tough on us inside the court, kung nakita niyo kung pa’no sigaw-sigawan kami. That’s just on the court. Outside, iko-comfort ka niya. Ipapaliwanag niya sa’yo kung bakit ganu’n, kung ano ’yung nagawa mong mali na dapat hindi mo naman nagawa,” Animam said.
Aquino has been a role model and a beacon of knowledge to his players. With experience dating back from his college days at University of the Philippines and a variety of coaching gigs, he continues to impart wisdom to them.
“ ’Yung mga self-experience niya tinuturo niya sa’min. From there, nakakakuha kami ng idea. Parang, ‘Ah, ganu’n pala niya dalhin ’yung sarili niya’. Naa-adapt rin namin ’yun.” Animam added.
Both players are officially out of the UAAP, but Aquino will forever occupy a big part of their lives.
Bernardino still works with him on the national team and continues to join different tournaments. Animam, meanwhile, pursued a different path, taking her talents to Taiwan as a foreign reinforcement for Shih Hsin University.
Despite taking different routes, both carry the same mindset and lessons from their longtime coach.
Animam encapsulates his impact in these words: “Coach Pat is a big influence to me not only as a player, but also as a person.”
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