WNBA not a far-fetched goal for Animam, says coach

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2021 02:43 PM

Jack Animam in action for National University in UAAP Season 82. File photo. UAAP Media.
Jack Animam in action for National University in UAAP Season 82. File photo. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- Jack Animam will be the first to acknowledge that she has plenty more to work on if she hopes to one day play in the WNBA, but her coach believes that it's a realistic goal for the Filipina trailblazer.

Animam, who starred for National University (NU) in her collegiate years, is now in Serbia where she is preparing for her first season with the Radnički Kragujevac basketball team. It will be Animam's maiden foray into professional hoops.

Her mentor, former WNBA player Imani McGee-Stafford, has said that this is a first step for Animam in her goal of one day making it to the biggest women's basketball league in the world. 

"Jack's ultimate goal is the WNBA, and this is definitely a stepping stone," said McGee-Stafford when Animam's move to Serbia was announced.

Dante Harlan, who trained Animam when she went to the United States earlier this year, believes that the WNBA is a realistic goal for the former NU star because of her work ethic and mindset.

Harlan worked with Animam on her skill set, training her to be more comfortable in playing in the perimeter after having gotten used to playing inside the paint throughout most of her basketball career. But Harlan also said that the one thing he didn't have to teach Animam was her superb work ethic and her willingness to get out of her comfort zone.

"It's really about what you set your mind to and if you have the right mindset to deal with adversity and really, you know, meeting it face to face and overcoming it," Harlan said on the "Post-Game" podcast.

"I believe Jack, she's able to do what she puts her mind to," he said. 

Harlan is confident that in Serbia, Animam will be able to master the new skills that she's learned over the past few months during their workouts. Animam has already shown that she can keep up with bigger, more physically imposing players during her run in Atlanta's Pro-Am league, and Harlan has no doubt that she will do the same when she plays for Radnički Kragujevac.

"She's learning how to play out from the rim. So she's gotta continue to master that, and that's why the Serbia thing is perfect," he said. "She's gonna be able to perfect her skills."

"And yes, that's gotta be a goal for Jack, to go play in the WNBA. Is it a far-fetched goal? No, not even close," he stressed. "Because she already has the right mindset to compete and play at that level."

For Harlan, the goal shouldn't just be to make it to the WNBA.

"It's not about her getting there. Get there and make an impact. And that's what she's building up towards," he said.

But like McGee-Stafford said, this is a process for Animam and Harlan is confident that she will excel in this part of her journey, as she has for her previous teams.

"In order to achieve the ultimate, you gotta go one step at a time. Do I see her getting to that level? I do. But right now, one step at a time," the coach said. "She's gonna learn how to dominate there, and then, onto bigger, next things."

"Right now, she has a job in front of her, and that's to go impact Serbia the way only Jack knows how, and then we'll go to the next step."

Animam, for her part, is drawing from the lessons she has learned in NU. In particular, she constantly keeps in mind a mantra that school owner and business magnate Hans Sy has told her: "Stay focused, be hungry, but stay humble."

"That's what I always told myself," said Animam. "I know there's so much more out there, but I'm focusing on what's in front of me. I take it one step at a time, one day at a time."

"Just keep working hard, you'll never know. Kaya nga sabi ko, you never know who's watching you. I'll just continue what I'm doing, working hard every day, who knows?"

For more of Animam and Harlan's thoughts on her basketball journey and her new chapter in Serbia, check out the "Post-Game" podcast.