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More than personal streak, Jack Animam wants to show 'Filipinas can play ball anywhere'

After extending her unblemished personal streak in the amateurs to 96 straight wins, Jack Animam said nothing is imminent just yet in terms of her future plans.

"Actually as of now there are no definite plans yet. I'm still exploring my options and I'm open to anything. I'm not closing my doors. I'm just always ready to go out there," the 22-year-old center said Wednesday on The Game on ONE News.

At the moment, Animam takes comfort in relishing her own growth by acknowledging her changes over the years.

"In terms of being a basketball player, I changed a lot compared to the past years," she said. "As a person, it was about going here, meeting new people, being in a new environment and a new culture and needing to adapt, work hard and earn their respect."

On Sunday, Animam pushed Shih Hsin University to the title in the University Basketball Association (UBA) after a 70-51 conquest of National Taiwan Normal University to complete a 16-game sweep of the 2020-21 season.

The championship is also the latest addition in the collection of Animam, who already owns five UAAP titles with National University and two Southeast Asian Games gold medals in five-on-five and 3x3 basketball from 2019.

Animam, a four-time UAAP Mythical Five member, also won Rookie of the Year in 2015, MVP in 2017, and Finals MVP in 2018.

"I'm a champion -- again," Animam laughed. "There's no secret. It's all hard work, and I just brought the learnings from NU's winning culture here in Taiwan."

In Taiwan, Animam was nothing short of dominant and averaged 17.1 points (eighth league-wide) on a blistering 66.3 percent clip. She dominated on the glass, where she pulled down a UBA-best 14.1 rebounds. About 7.7 of those boards came on the offensive glass; if Animam didn't grab any defensive rebounds, she still would have finished in the top 14.

Animam also added 2.6 steals (fifth), 1.9 blocks (second) and 1.3 assists all in just 22 minutes per game, the lowest mark among all players in the top 10 scoring leaderboard.

A lot of her excellence is attributed to her growing comfort on the floor -- particularly in the low post and at the free throw line, where she shot 65.2 percent.

"When I'm in the low post, I've gotten very comfortable to the point that I'm able to explore moves that I didn't think I'd be able to do before," she said. "[And I improved] my free throw shooting, which I struggled with for my entire UAAP career."

But Animam said she did her fair share of adjusting in the UBA, too, noting how she had to scale down her level of physicality in order to stay on the floor longer.

"When you talk about Philippine basketball, it's physical. That's what I needed to adjust when I got here. What's usually not a foul back there is a foul here. It was difficult," Animam said, laughing. "There were a lot of games where I'd pick up two or three fouls in the first three minutes of the first quarter. I was frustrated at first, because how could I play defense, how could I play basketball like that? But my coach always told me, 'Just stay calm, adjust.' So I said, 'Okay.' I didn't foul out in the entire season, but I would always pick up these early fouls.

"Sometimes I'd get fouls even though I was just standing. My teammates would always tell me, 'You're too strong, that's why!'"

This proved to be simply a minor bump in the road for Animam, who now has a boatload of options ahead of her. Of course, none among these choices can top the allure of making history in the WNBA, although Animam understands she has "a long, long, long way to go."

"All athletes want to reach the highest league in their sport. The WNBA's always a dream," she said. "But right now, I'm trying to focus on the things within my reach that eventually, hopefully will lead me to the WNBA."

The focus is also on continuously influencing a new generation of Filipina basketball players. As one of the biggest advocates in the country, Animam says she happily continues to carry the responsibility of paving the way for women ballers in the country.

"At the back of my mind, (I feel) everyone back home is watching me, especially all the women's basketball players in the Philippines and the young generation. And I always uphold myself (to the standard) of always playing my game, always playing my best every game, because I want to show them that we Filipinas can play ball anywhere in the world everywhere we wish to play," she said.