How Atlanta Pro-Am league prepared Jack Animam for Serbia

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2021 01:23 PM

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MANILA, Philippines -- After dominating in the Philippines and Taiwan, Jack Animam is ready to take her game to the next level when she plays for Radnički Kragujevac in Serbia.

But before she inked her first professional contract, Animam first had to prove her worth in a Pro-Am league in Atlanta where she got to test her skills against some of the best in the city, including former WNBA players.

Animam played for the Zone 6 Celtics in the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League (AEBL), a move that proved eye-opening for her as well as her trainers. There, Animam showed that she can more than hold her own against players who were as physically imposing and more experienced than she is.

In an appearance on the "Post-Game" podcast, Animam recalled playing against Tamera Young, who suited up for the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, and Las Vegas Aces in her WNBA career.

"I played against her," Animam said. "I guarded her, she guarded me. I was so happy because I got an and-1 against her."

"Playing in the AEBL was really a good experience and good exposure for me. Seeing those WNBA players that I just got to see on TV, on Instagram, but now I'm seeing them in the flesh, in front of me," she added.

"And to be able to play against them, I feel so honored, and I'm just so happy that I got to be in this league, battling against the best of the best learning from them. It's really amazing."

Jack Animam in action for National University in the UAAP.
Jack Animam in action for National University in the UAAP. File photo. UAAP Media

Animam's coach, Dante Harlan, had been impressed with her skill set and work ethic right from the start, but he also knew that the former National University (NU) center had to test herself in an actual game.

Having played in Pro-Am leagues himself, Harlan knew that it was the kind of setting that will bring out the best in Animam.

"It was the best thing for her," Harlan said of Animam's stint in the AEBL. "There's no hiding when you play in those Pro-Am leagues. You gotta show that you belong on that court or they won't pass you the ball."

Animam indeed showed that she belonged -- and even received an award at the the end of the season for her efforts.

She was named as the league's Rising Star, after twice earning Player of the Game honors and once receiving a Player of the Week citation. 

"I didn't expect it," Animam said of her award. "Super, super kilig ako. Wow, imagine there were so many athletes there, same with my age, but among all of them, I'm the one that's chosen. I'm just really honored."

Animam is now in Serbia, where she is preparing for her first season with Radnički Kragujevac.

To hear more of Animam's thoughts on her basketball journey as well as coach Harlan's analysis of her game and her progress, check out the "Post-Game" podcast.