MANILA, Philippines -- Another Filipino-American player has expressed her intent to help the Philippine women's basketball program.
Vanessa De Jesus, who now plays for Duke University, said Thursday that she is very much willing to play for flag and country, especially as she continues to learn about her motherland's love for the game of basketball.
"Yeah, I'm interested in playing in the Philippines, 'cause you know, I've heard so much, great things," said the 18-year-old De Jesus.
"And just how big basketball is there. I've seen so many things from afar, of how much you guys love basketball, and I love basketball too so I'm very excited about that," she added.
De Jesus' parents are both Filipinos, but she was born in the United States. The point guard was ranked 37th overall in her recruiting class by ESPN and committed to Duke in 2019.
But before that, De Jesus was a star at Sierra Canyon School, where LeBron James' son, Bronny, plays. As a sophomore, she led the team to a 33-1 record and the state championship. She also played AAU basketball for California Storm, whose elite team is affiliated with WNBA legend Diana Taurasi.
According to Gilas women's head coach Pat Aquino, De Jesus just needs to get her Philippine passport which will make her eligible to play for the country in FIBA 3x3 events as well as the Southeast Asian Games.
Because she was unable to get her Philippine passport before the age of 16, however, De Jesus cannot represent the country in FIBA events unless as a naturalized player.
"But she can still play in 3x3, definitely in 3x3, and 5-on-5 for the Southeast Asian rules. Which is a good opportunity for her," said Aquino. "She can also play for the Jones Cup and other leagues without the restriction of FIBA, for the 16-year-old rule that they have."
"She's very welcome," he added. "I know (Duke) Coach Kara (Lawson) is a 3x3 coach, and I'm so excited if she could be allowed to play for the 3x3 program or the 3x3 tournament that will be resuming by next year, hopefully."
At the moment, De Jesus' priority is balancing her basketball and academic priorities in Duke, where she is a freshman in a pre-med track. The team has been training since August, with the college basketball season in the United States set to tip off in late November.
"I'm so grateful to have this opportunity, especially this year with coaches coming in and going under Coach Kara," said De Jesus. "I think it's a great opportunity for me to just grow as a player, and just take the experience and get better on the court."