Home Editors' Picks Animam, Henson to beef up Gilas women’s team

Animam, Henson to beef up Gilas women’s team

THE Gilas Pilipinas women’s team looks forward to the return of seasoned anchor Jack Animam and the debut of Filipina-American ace Mai-Loni Henson for a busy 2022 campaign none bigger than the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA) in Hanoi.

Coach Pat Aquino said he expects the availability of the two prized cagers that would only beef up the national team in time for a second straight SEA Games gold medal bid in May.

The 6-foot-5 Ms. Animam just came off an international pro debut in Serbia, where she impressed with a double-double average of 20.0 points and 14.3 rebounds.

Ms. Henson, the 6-foot-1 prospect from San Diego, California for her part has acquired dual citizenship to become Gilas-ready after a stint for University of Washington in the US NCAA and Al Aplemont in the France pro league.

“Yes, definitely (they will play). We’ll need the experience of Mses. Animam and Henson for our tournaments this year,” Mr. Aquino told The STAR following a fruitful return to action in the 2021 International Basketball Federation (FIBA)  Women’s Asia Cup after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Parading a hybrid squad made up of key veterans and a slew of young guns, the Philippines bested India in the relegation match to earn the right of staying in the elite Asia Cup’s Division A led by Japan, China and Australia.

And with Mses. Animam and Henson on board to reinforce Afril Bernardino, Camille Clarin, Ella Fajardo and skipper Janine Pontejos, the goal in the regional biennial meet is within closer reach for the Nationals.

“All eyes will be on the team given our performance in 2019 so we hope to defend the crown in the SEA Games,” he added after ruling the traditional 5-on-5 and inaugural 3×3 events in Manila.

Aside from the SEA Games, Gilas is also hoping to strut its stuff in the FIBA Women’s World Cup and the Asian Games. — John Bryan Ulanday