DUKE University’s Vanessa de Jesus can’t wait to finally don national colors in honor of her family and country when Gilas Pilipinas vies in the 2023 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Division A next week in Sydney, Australia.

Ms. De Jesus, 21, said playing for the national team is the realization of her dream and of her proud Filipino parents as she reinforces the Southeast Asian Games core of Gilas against the continent’s best teams.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to suit up for the Philippine national team. Two of the most important things in my life are family and basketball,” said Ms. De Jesus in an online media availability with the local press late Tuesday night.

“Having the opportunity to represent both on a national level is something I’m very excited about. And I’m very excited to go both as a player and as a leader by competing on the global stage.”

Ms. De Jesus, an incoming senior, is the first Asian player to ever play in the elite Duke women’s basketball program — making her a highly-sought prospect for the Philippines for years now.

She’s one of the primary guards for Duke, which reached the US NCAA Division I second round this year, with averages of 5.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 66 games so far.

Though born to both Filipino parents — Phillip and Maria — in California, the 5-foot-8 ace will fill the naturalized player spot for Gilas in the Asia Cup slated on June 26 to July 3.

Ms. De Jesus obtained her Philippine passport last month but FIBA requires players to secure one before turning 16 in order to be considered as a local player.

She will join Gilas in Melbourne, where the wards of coach Pat Aquino will arrive this weekend, for their final build-up before flying to Sydney next week.

Gilas is bunched with five-time champion Japan, host Australia and Chinese Taipei in Group B of the Asia Cup that also serves as a qualifying event for the Paris Olympics. — John Bryan Ulanday