TAGUM CITY, Philippines – After missing an open layup in a fastbreak play, girls secondary basketball player Valerie Mae Mamaril from the Ilocos Region rushed down court and stole the ball from one of the players of Central Luzon.
She then took a midrange jumper in the ensuing play.
Now, already in her last Palarong Pambansa appearance, Mamaril dreams big of becoming the first Filipina ever to play in the Women's National Basketball (WNBA).
She promises to end her Palaro career with a bang.
WNBA dream, UAAP stint
A native of Lingayen, Pangasinan, Mamaril has been part of her region's girls basketball team since the 2012 Palarong Pambansa, except for an incident that led to her hiatus during the 2014 games in Laguna.
"Nasaktan po ako kasi pagkatapos ng laro namin sinabi na kasama ako sa Palaro, parang pareho kami ng apelyido nung teammate ko kaya nagkamali siguro sila, hindi ako nakasama," said Mamaril.
"Ginawa ko 'yung best ko doon tapos hindi ako nakasama."
(I was hurt because after our game they told me that I'll be part of the team in the 2014 Palaro, but I have the same surname as one of my teammates, so maybe they made a mistake, and I did not make the team. I did my best and yet I wasn't included in the roster.)
But that incident did not stop Mamaril from playing basketball, as she made a successful comeback in this year's Palaro while bright things are in the offing.
"'Pag nakakapanood po ako ng WNBA, parang gusto kong maging kagaya nila [WNBA players]. Dream ko 'yon at para makapunta na rin sa ibang bansa," shared the Pangasinan National High School alumna.
(Every time I watch the WNBA, I want to be one of the players. It's my dream to play in the WNBA and visit other countries while at it).
In fact, Mamaril has drawn scouts' attention while playing 3x3 basketball in Bacolod two years ago. This paved the way for an exposure in a basketball training in Miami and Washington DC.
Mamaril, who plays point guard and embraces a pass-first mentality as the team's floor general, was also recruited by the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws to play in the UAAP.
"Nag-tryout po ako sa FEU, pumunta po talaga ako doon (I tried out for FEU, I really went to the school)," said Mamaril, who idolizes former FEU star and UAAP MVP Terrence Romeo.
While playing under the bright lights of the UAAP excites the 5'3" point guard, Mamaril is still focused on her mission to help Ilocos Region surpass its 6th place finish in last year's Palaro.
The Palarong Pambansa is the largest grassroots sporting event in the Philippines that aims to develop the potentials of the youth to become responsible and globally-competitive citizens.
It is the Department of Education's way of promoting physical education and sports as an integral part of the country's basic education curriculum.
"Excited na po ako. Pagkatapos po nito, pupunta na ako sa Manila para mag-train para sa UAAP (I'm excited because after the Palaro, I'll be going to Manila to train for the UAAP)," Mamaril added.
Although Ilocos Region dropped its opener against Central Luzon 63-75, with Mamaril leading her team with 14 points, she vowed to bounce back and lead her region to the top before showing her wares in the UAAP.
Mamaril's dreams are not farfetched as the point guard who has good handles and high basketball IQ also shows hard work and good work ethic.
First Filipina WNBA player? No one knows but time. Sky is the limit for Valerie Mae Mamaril. – Rappler.com