Gilas Women U16’s Smith played through pain in finals

Posted by watchmen
July 22, 2023
Posted in SPORTS

Ever since Gilas Pilipinas Women added youth teams to its program to compete in international tournaments, head coach and program director Pat Aquino has become hopeful that players will be able to embody the heart and fighting spirit Filipinos are known for from a young age.

Newcomer Nevaeh Smith showed that attitude in the FIBA U16 Women’s Asian Championship Division B championship game, when she played through a sprained thumb to help deliver the title for the girls.

“There was a lot of pressure, for sure. I’m naturally a shooter, and I did lock in, but by halftime, I actually sprained my [right] thumb, so I had to wrap it,” Smith revealed after the team’s arrival in Manila.

“It was on defense, they threw the ball, and I sprained it, and at halftime, they had to wrap it,” she said.

Not wanting to let her teammates down, Smith decided to push through; the injury did not seem to affect her at all, as she scored 14 of her 21 points in the second half of the Philippines’ 83-60 win over Iran, shooting 5-of-13 from three-point distance.

“I was having a lot of fun. I worked hard with that, so I feel like I couldn’t let my team down. I did need my shots to go down in [that] game. It was a lot of pressure, especially [from] the shootaround,” the 15-year-old guard said.

“Honestly, I was excited and more motivated to go back out there. This is a game where I really, I’m gonna get back, because to be honest, I was very locked in,” she added.

Smith wound up averaging the team’s second-best 13.2 points throughout Gilas Women’s undefeated run, behind Ava Fajardo’s 16.2.

The California-based Smith said she already felt confident in herself prior to joining the team for the Jordan tilt.

To make sure she didn’t let up, the 5-foot-5 guard spent time doing not just extra workouts but also meditating and making sure she had the right mindset for the tournament.

“I was working a lot on my shooting. Mentally, I was very much preparing. My parents supported me through that. I really do need to lock in. I made sure my shot was perfect,” she said.

Knowing that women’s basketball is still rising in the country, Smith hopes that the U16 accomplishment inspires even more young Filipinas to be involved in the sport.

“I think it means a lot because women’s basketball, it’s [still] low if that makes sense, and by winning and representing the country, it definitely inspires a lot of women and we really did work hard,” she said.

“I’d say I really hope that people or kids in general do grow up to be who they want to be and it means a lot because we did work hard and we did deserve this win, for sure,” she added.

Aquino likewise wants the milestone to lead to more doors opening for the team’s youth program.

“It’s also opening opportunities for girls to know that there is an age group level for Gilas. Hopefully, they can come out and represent our country,” the mentor said. (ABS-CBN News)

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