FIBA: Aquino has go-signal to search for naturalized player for Gilas Women

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 29 2022 12:47 PM

Gilas Pilipinas Women's coach Pat Aquino. Photo courtesy of Fil-Am Nation Select.
Gilas Pilipinas Women's coach Pat Aquino. Photo courtesy of Fil-Am Nation Select.

MANILA, Philippines -- Pat Aquino will have a busy schedule when he returns to the United States in December, as he plans to visit some members of the Philippine women's national team to check on their progress.

Aquino is set to fly to the US on December 14 for a month-long trip. The head coach of the Gilas Pilipinas Women has already scheduled visits with the likes of Gabi Bade, Stefanie Berberabe and Ella Fajardo, all of whom have represented the Philippines in tournaments earlier this year.

"What are their plans? Are they coming back? Am I hoping? Am I expecting you to be here?" Aquino said of his upcoming discussions with the Filipino-American players.

"Then, I'll be talking to other players like you know, Kayla Padilla, Vanessa de Jesus, there's one in George Washington, si Aurea Gingras, and then Mai-Loni Henson also. So I'll be talking with her," he added. 

But one of his priorities is to sit down with Fil-Am Nation Select founder Cris Gopez about possibly finding a player who can go through the naturalization process. This, as Aquino has gotten the green light from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to search for a naturalized player for the women's team.

"Hopefully I could find time and talk to coach Cris [Gopez] na makakuha kami ng pwede natin inaturalize kasi as of now, meron kami, nag go-signal na rin si [SBP] president Al Panlilio and masayang masaya ako dun," said Aquino.

"Sabi niya, kuha ka na ng naturalized mo. Sabi ko, thank you," he added.

Aquino previously had Fil-Am forward Kelli Hayes, who suits up as a naturalized player in FIBA tournaments. She saw action for the Gilas Women in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2019, and the FIBA women's Olympic pre-qualifying tournament that same year.

Hayes also played for Aquino in National University and helped the Gilas Women win a breakthrough gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. 

Aquino is also planning to visit youth-level players who have represented the Philippines in FIBA age group tournaments, such as Gabby Ramos, Kristan Yumul, and Sumayah Sugapong.

"It's gonna be busy," he said of his trip. "Not [for] leisure."