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Pat Aquino’s system works

July 10, 2023 People's Tonight 484 views

Lito CincoWOMEN’S basketball, the WNCAA to be exact, was among my very first beat when I started sports writing in 1977.

I just missed seeing by two years the great Gloria Co from Chiang Kai Shek.

She was the female version of La Salle deadshot Lim Eng Beng, and a three-time MVP in the league as she led her team to four championships in the early 70’s.

Then around 2013, I got involved with the UE women’s team of Ai Lebornio

Prior to that, I actually was helping her with WNCAA champion team Lyceum as a mental strengthening mentor gratis et amore.

When she moved to UE, she inherited a 0-14 team. But in five years’ time, she brought the team to the finals but lost to NU.

My point, that was a good example of a basketball program that worked as we were improving every year, a Final 4 in year 3, a 3rd place finish in year 4, and a stab for the title in year 5.
Now why am I reminiscing on women’s basketball?

Simply because we had our best finish in the Division A in FIBA Asia recently, a 6th place finish that could have even been a semifinals seat had we won that close game against New Zealand.

And I had chance to do a long one on one video chat with long time women’s national team head coach Pat Aquino who deserves to be recognized more for his untiring effort to develop women’s basketball here since he got the job in 2015.

For one, his system works.

He has established a U-16 feeder program composed of around 20 girls who eventually graduate to the senior team.

This ensures a succession and more importantly, the team chemistry as the girls are familiar with one another.

If you look at his senior team, you will see he has been able to retain his core group of key players, the likes of Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, and Chack Cabinbin.

Then players are added from the pool or from the mainland USA with legitimate Fil-Am players both for the U-16 and the national team.

He shared that Fil-Am players , including their parents, welcome and appreciate the opportunity to suit up for the national team.

For the parents, it is a matter of pride to see their kids wearing Philippine colors while for the younger players, having played for a national team increases their chances of getting into Division I schools.

For players like Vanessa de Jesus who recently played for the team, her stint will help her achieve her dream of playing in the WNBA.

Pat says Vanessa, who plays for Duke, a Division I school, has committed to play for him as long as she is allowed.

But more than this, Pat has earned the respect of his players with his coaching style, fatherly in a way , and coupled with his credentials, players look up to him.

Next stop for the team is the Asian Games in China later this year and Pat looks forward to it with eagerness, ready to compete and not just to be there.

Fact is ,he is seriously eyeing a semis slot behind powerhouse Asian champion China, Japan, and Korea.

Other countries expected to be there are Chinese – Taipei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Iran.

Would you believe this is the first time we have been invited to send a team to the Asian Games. A big sign of respect I would say.

But before the Asiad, Pat will play in the Jones Cup in Taipei early August, then possibly a Korean trip after, to serve as tune up for the team.

For the U16 team, it just left for Jordan to compete in Group B together with Hongkong, Maldives, and the host country with an eye towards advancing to Group A next time.

At the helm is my friend Ai Lebornio who told me her team will target the championship.

Ai is among the coaching staff members that he is looking at to eventually take his place as head coach though he plans to remain there as long as he can even as he admits he is not getting younger.

And as he requested , to give credit where due, I am naming all the members of his coaching staff all the way to the utilityman, for a job well done.

Aside from Ai, they are Julie Amos, Ramon Garcia, Paul Du, Mark Solona, Paolo Gorospe, Hazel Yambot, Russel Urrag, Cams Escoto, and Ted Basijan.Team manager is Mike Lim.

Carry on Pat.

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