IN a country where basketball is our favorite pastime, it is ironic that sports fans don’t give much attention to women’s basketball.
However, with the upcoming FIBA 3×3 World Cup just around the corner, it’s about time for us to give it to our Filipina ballers as well.
Many do not know much about Afril Bernandino and her basketball journey as the pride of Cainta, Rizal is one of the key cogs for the formidable NU Lady Bulldogs in recent years. Her exploits on the hardwood are well-documented, thanks to her unparalleled athleticism and her perseverance to excel at the sport.
“When we first recruited Afril, the only thing she does was jump and run since she was a high jump athlete. She was chosen to play basketball at the Palarong Pambansa when their team recruited her as a sub for an injured teammate,” NU Lady Bulldogs head coach Patrick Aquino recalled.
The Palarong Pambansa product represented Region IV-B (Calabarzon) in two sports: high jump and basketball. But it was in basketball where she showed glimpses on what she could become as an athlete, prompting the NU coaching staff to bring her in the fold right after the national event.
“We saw something in her that’s why we said that we have to get her (Bernandino). We told her that she can study her third year of high school at NU already,” added Aquino.
However, despite making it in the roster, Bernandino wasted no time in honing her craft by working extra hard at practice and picking her coaches’ brain on how to improve as a ball player and as a person.
“She developed her skills by asking a lot of questions from us coaches and doing numerous drills to get better. Eventually, she got a whole lot better because of her heart and passion to aim for bigger goals. She constantly challenged her teammates to get better as well, making her a valuable all-around player/leader for our squad,” said National University’s multi-titled mentor.
Perlas Pilipinas is one of the 20 teams slated to compete against the best in the 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup, which will be held here in the Philippines starting on June 8. The women’s national team is to be bannered by UAAP standouts Bernandino, Jack Animam, and Gemma Miranda.
Their counterparts who are joining are expected to be more experienced and more athletic, providing a daunting challenge for our Filipina ballers. But more than anything, coach Patrick Aquino can’t help but feel excited for this new opportunity for his wards.
“It is a great opportunity for the team to showcase that basketball is not only for boys. Filipinas can ball too. We are thankful that we get recognized and given credit to their hardwork and achievements,” said Aquino.