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Animam, Fajardo reaffirm commitment to Gilas Women program

Gilas Pilipinas Women mainstays Jack Animam and Ella Fajardo remain committed to the national program even as they continue their basketball careers abroad.

"They can still play for us," assured head coach and program director Pat Aquino in a recent episode of the Coaches Unfiltered podcast.

Fajardo has recently committed to NCAA Division I school Fairleigh Dickinson University, a Northeast Conference (NEC) team based in New Jersey.

The 17-year-old has played for the flag twice already, first as a member of the Gilas team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIBA 3x3 Under-18 World Cup in Mongolia and later as an integral part of a core that grabbed bronze in the 3x3 Under-19 Asia Cup in Malaysia.

"The first thing she said to me is, 'I wanted to go to this school because they are so lenient in sending national team players to go back to their own countries to play for the national team.' She'll have two teammates who are from the national team from Spain, so they are lax with them," said Aquino. "I'm so happy that Ella still thought about those things with the schedule of FIBA."

Animam, meanwhile, is also afforded the same kind of opportunity with Taiwan's Shih Hsin University in the University Basketball Association, where she will continue her career as a foreign student-athlete after a storied five-season run with National University.

The 21-year-old center did not lose a single game in her UAAP career, clinched the regular season and Finals MVP awards once each, and helped push Gilas Women to historic golds in the 3x3 and five-on-five tournaments in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

"With Jack, we had that understanding with the Taiwanese coach that she'll be allowed when the national team is in play. So that will be good for us," Aquino said.

But Aquino said he has not stopped searching for new recruits to add to the women's program and said he's had his eye on some Division I talents, as well as prospects available locally.

"Up to now, I'm still recruiting in the States for Fil-Am girls," he said. "People from Canada also have been giving me some profiles for future national team members."

"We still have a lot of girls na talagang very promising to be part of the program, young girls that can be part of it," Aquino added. "I'm just happy that we are already getting a lot of responses from the girls who want to participate for the national team program."