Gilas belles parade new players

With Filipino-American stalwarts Kristan Yumul and Naomi Panganiban out, head coach Patrick Aquino had to find new players to fill the four-player roster of the national team that will see action in the FIBA Women’s U17 3×3 Asia Cup that starts today in Malaysia.

Aquino said he had no choice but to cut Yumul and Panganiban after they failed to comply with the one-year residency rule of the world governing body in basketball.

He said although the two standouts were able to represent the country in full-court tourneys in the past, the 3×3 event has a different set of rules, prompting them to tap last-minute replacements who will fill the void created by their absence.

Yumul was the top performer for the national under-16 squad a few months ago. Then, she carried the cudgels for Gilas Youth when it plucked the bronze medal in the FIBA Women’s U18 Asia Cup.

In the under-16 tournament, Yumul set a career-tying record for most number of three-point shots with nine and ended up with 33 points in a 92-86 win over Syria on 25 June 25.

“Although they have represented out country in five-on-five tournaments, the 3×3 implements different set of rules as they need to undergo one-year residency rule before they’re allowed to play,” Aquino stressed, adding that they will be slapped with around P570,000 fine on top of a four-year ban should they fail to send a team to the prestigious event.

“Two of our Fil-Am players who played in the U16 tournament were not allowed to play due to residency rules so we have to pick the best available players. There are a few more played who are better, but unfortunately, they don’t have passports yet.”

Taking over the spots of Yumul and Panganiban are Adamson standout Arianna de los Santos and National University-Nazareth High School campaigner Nicole Pring.

De los Santos and Pring are both first time international bidders, but they will join the experienced roster composed of national team mainstays BJ Villarin and Camille Nolasco.

The Nationals already left for the Malaysian capital on Wednesday.

The Filipinas are grouped with Thailand and Hong Kong in the Qualifying Draw A. They need to win that opening phase to advance to the next round of the pool play stage of the tournament.

Villarin, who has been joining the squad’s training for the Southeast Asian Games, said playing against experienced players helped them develop their winning mentality.

“I joined their training in May prior to competing in the SEA Games,” said the Cebuana dribbler.

“It was Coach (Gilas assistant coach) Julie Amos who invited me to join the training of the seniors team.”

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