MANILA, Philippines -- Jack Animam will always be ready to play for flag and country, even as she is set to embark on a professional basketball career.
Animam, a standout from National University (NU), on Monday announced that she has signed a contract to play for Radnički Kragujevac in the First Women's Basketball League of Serbia, making her the first Filipina to do so.
It's a move that her mentor, former WNBA player Imani McGee-Stafford, believes will bring Animam closer to the top league in the world.
"Jack's ultimate goal is the WNBA, and this is definitely a stepping stone," McGee-Stafford said in a media call on Monday night. "Serbia is a great starting stone for her."
But Animam made it clear that she is still fully committed to the Gilas Pilipinas Women, of which she is a cornerstone. Animam has been a mainstay in the national team for several years now and was a crucial factor in their run to the gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
"First of all, my heart and passion is always with my national team, Coach Pat (Aquino), and with the SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas)," she assured.
"I am very hopeful, based on previous history, pre-COVID, that the European schedule is favorable to the FIBA events," Animam added.
However, she also stressed that she will respect her team's decision on her availability for the national team.
"But I'm still really open to playing for the national team," she added.
Aquino, who coached Animam at NU as well as in the Gilas Women, expressed his pride at his protege's latest achievement while also expressing hope that Animam can continue to represent the Philippines.
"Now that she's competing in that level, we hope that she brings it back to us," said Aquino. "Especially now… we hope that Jack will always be there to represent the country, the flag and country. And we hope that she succeeds, and that many will follow her in the future."
Animam will leave for Serbia on Friday and play for Radnički Kragujevac until March.