From merely watching her, Ella Fajardo cherishes match-up with Sami Whitcomb at FIBA WAC

From only seeing her play in New York, Ella Fajardo finally got a chance to go up against Sami Whitcomb. FIBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—With Australia in Gilas Pilipinas' group in the FIBA Women's Asian Cup, the Philippine team got a chance to test its mettle against a national team with a WNBA player in it.

And for Ella Fajardo, it was an opportunity to see what Sami Whitcomb can do face-to-face.

"Sami Whitcomb is someone that I watch on a daily basis play," said Fajardo, who has since returned to her American home in New Jersey after the FIBA WAC, on Thursday during the Usapang Sports online forum.

The said state happens to be near New York City, where Whitcomb, a two-time WNBA champ for the Seattle Storm, is now playing for the Liberty.

"She's playing for the team I root for," Fajardo continued.

In their first face-off, however, Fajardo made sure that she's not going to stoop down.

"Coach Pat just told all the girls, 'Have pride in knowing that although you don't have kind of hype and you're not a WNBA player, you're the best of the best in the Philippines. Act like it. Whenever you pass another team, don't look down. Look up,'" Fajardo recalled what Aquino told Gilas in a similar experience in 2019.

She just simply applied it.

"At the back of my mind, I was like, 'Oh my gosh! It's her!' But it's also like, 'I'm gonna take a stand and I'm gonna walk past her with my head up knowing that she's a competitor," Fajardo continued.

Sami Whitcomb put up a solid all-around game for Australia against Gilas. FIBA (file photo)
She then got to challenge Whitcomb in the Gilas-Australia showdown—although for just 10 seconds as Fajardo claimed—but it gave Fajardo the desire to guard Whitcomb again.

"At that moment, I really wanted to guard her. That was my mentality," Fajardo continued.

While Gilas lost in that match, it surely changed the way Fajardo would watch Whitcomb again for New York next year.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno