For most athletes, they would consider their collegiate years to be the highlight of their careers. More often than not, they would say that from a mere sentimental standpoint, especially considering that a professional career awaits them beyond the University. However, in a field that favors men, Filipina basketball players are often denied a chance to pursue greater heights in their hardwood careers.
Fortunately, for Philippine basketball as a whole, that does not have to be the rough reality for long as the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) recently approved of the establishment of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), the first professional league for Filipina basketball players. Slated to tip-off in January 2021, the WNBL is making strides to fully establish the league, and that begins with the upcoming WNBL draft that will feature stars from the collegiate level, headlined by former Lady Archers standouts Camille Claro and Khate Castillo.
Repping the Green-and-White
Two years after their final UAAP game, Claro and Castillo still vividly remember their glory days donning the Green-and-White.
“What I miss the most about playing in the UAAP for the Lady Archers is representing the [University], especially if it’s La Salle,” beamed Claro, who was touted as one of the league’s elite guards. Claro entered the league in Season 76 and was part of the 2013 title team. In that same championship run, the sensational guard hit the biggest triple in her career to clinch a win against the University of Santo Tomas’ Lady Tigresses in the semifinals.
Now, Claro has the chance to score even bigger buckets as she enters the WNBL draft, and she is nothing short of excited. “It’s been over a year since I played in a big league. Exciting ‘to for me knowing that I’m playing with or against the country’s best veterans and young aspirants,” Claro remarked.
Aside from having the stage to finally play the game she loves once again, Claro has a chance to play with, or even against, her former DLSU teammates. Joining Claro as representatives of La Salle in the WNBL are Castillo, Chay Vergara, Snow Peñaranda, Camille Ramos, and Nicky Garcia—pillars of the basketball program.
“I’ve played with them for more than five years. ‘Yung feeling na teammates mo sila ng ganung katagal tapos magiging kalaban mo ‘pag dating sa professional league for me is very intriguing,” said Claro.
(That feeling when you were teammates with them for so long, and now you have a chance to play against them is very intriguing for me.)
Castillo, another former star from the Lady Archers, is likewise thrilled to be a part of the WNBL draft. “The most fascinating part for me is the crowd. I know that the UAAP atmosphere helped me to boost my confidence and encouraged me. Entering the WNBL in January, it’s going to be unique, and I’m prepared to establish the hard work and perseverance to perform well and give my best to succeed in every game,” said the former Lady Archer. She had joined Claro in DLSU in Season 77 to help steady the ship and lead the Lady Archers to consistent winning seasons.
Despite the pandemic, the dynamic duo is already under preparations for the WNBL draft combine. “Endurance and resistance,” replied Claro about her training points over the quarantine. “Once in a while, I run on my treadmill at home. I also started playing again ever since my dad rented a basketball court for me to stay in shape.”
Platform to inspire
“For me, I feel that we can encourage more and more talented girls and women to engage in basketball by constantly broadcasting women’s basketball games on television and other social media platforms,” Castillo added.
While the WNBL is a gigantic step toward advancing gender equality in sports, especially in the Philippines, centuries worth of patriarchy and misogyny will not be corrected overnight. There is still a lot of work to be done for the country to fully overhaul gender inequality in the sport, but Claro and Castillo are ready for that challenge.
As they get ready to be pioneers for the country’s first professional women’s basketball league, thousands of eyes will be on Claro and Castillo. Given its newfound platform, the WNBL can very well inspire thousands of young Filipina talents to show the nation what they do best: basketball. “My message to all young Filipina ballers out there is to always establish discipline, passion, persistence, perseverance, and determination in your craft. Always trust in your capabilities and potential as an individual,” Castillo advised.