MANILA, Philippines -- The WNBA remains the ultimate goal for Filipina basketball star Jack Animam but for now her complete focus is on her new team, Radnički Kragujevac.
Animam, a five-time UAAP champion with National University, on Monday announced that she will play as a professional in Serbia. It's another step in a basketball journey that has already taken Animam from the Philippines to Taiwan and then to the United States.
"Siyempre super excited ako, super saya ko that I got this opportunity," said Animam, a mainstay of the Gilas Pilipinas Women and a former UAAP Most Valuable Player. "In five months or in one year, nakapunta ako sa three different countries by just playing basketball."
"And going to Serbia, what makes me excited more is about their culture, the European brand of basketball. We all know that Serbia is one of the best basketball countries that there is. So I'm just really excited to learn more about the game and keep improving and really push myself to the limit," she added.
Animam played for the Shin Hsin University in Taiwan last year, helping them to an unbeaten season and the University Basketball Association title. In May 2021, she moved to the United States for further training, including stints in the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League.
Her management, East West Private, connected Animam to former WNBA player Imani McGee-Stafford who has since become the Filipina's mentor.
McGee-Stafford, who played overseas as well, stressed that Animam's stint in Serbia will help her in achieving her ultimate dream of playing in the WNBA.
"Jack's ultimate goal is the WNBA, and this is definitely a stepping stone," said McGee-Stafford.
"One of the hardest parts about being able to go to the WNBA is having quality film against other pro players, and that's hard to do when you're coming out of college, especially when you're coming out of college in a different country," she explained.
"So Jack being able to go and play and get that film is definitely gonna help her career and move her in a trajectory that she wants to go."
Patty Scott, who represents Animam through East West Private, stressed that the WNBA remains in their plans.
"One step at a time, right?" she said. "Right now, Jack's focus is Serbia."
"Obviously, (the) dream for her is the WNBA, but one step at a time. Her focus is 100% right now on Serbia," she added.
Animam herself previously acknowledged that she has a long way to go before reaching that level.
"The WNBA is always a dream," Animam said in March. "Kung makikita ko 'yung sarili ko, I know I still have a long, long, long way to go. But right now, I'm trying to focus on the things within my reach, you know? Eventually, you know, (the) hopefully will lead me there, to the WNBA."
After signing with Radnički Kragujevac, Animam said her focus is to keep improving her game while also hopefully leading her new team to success. Radnički was a mid-table squad in the Serbian league last season, and their management has already expressed hope that Animam will come in to be the leader of a young team.
"I'm like a sponge na I'm willing to learn and adapt talaga," Animam said of her upcoming stint in Serbia. "So I'm just really excited to be there, to see what's out there and really to build the chemistry with my team."
Animam will leave for Serbia on Friday. Her contract with the team is until March.