Filipino-American Ella Fajardo is entering a new stage in her athletic journey as she joins Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, where she resides with her family.
The 17-year-old cager is among the elite few who passed a rigorous selection process for a spot in the school’s roster for the Division I of the United States National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“It’s been a pretty long process,” said Fajardo, who was recruited by various institutions in the US since her freshman year in high school.
What stood out for the Philippine team point guard was the good relationship she developed with FDU’s coaching staff, her main factor for choosing the university.
Although she consulted her parents, Ellen and Allan, Fajardo was given the authority to decide on her own.
“Wherever I feel I belong, it’s up to me. Fairleigh loved who I was outside of basketball and I have that personality that would fit into the team,” she said.
“They’re really looking for specific people for Fairleigh’s winning culture, primarily a guard who has leadership skills, and that was definitely what they saw in me while recruiting me and watching my games live.”
Yale University, The University of Chicago and New York University were among the institutions that tried to recruit Fajardo.
On choosing FDU, Fajardo was grateful to be welcomed by her new alma mater.
“I think it’s such a blessing especially during these times of the pandemic because this is hugely a time for recruited athletes to go to camps so that the coaches can see you and be hands on with you, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that. The fact that I was able to grow a relationship with FDU during quarantine was the main deciding factor for me,” she said.
Fajardo credits her achievements to her days as a Milo BEST (Basketball Efficiency & Scientific Training) Center student in 2011 when she was nine years old.
“The Milo Best Center was the foundation of my basketball career,” she said, crediting the sports clinic founded by the late coach Nic Jorge.
“The difference with the Best Center and the other camps in the States is their approach to teaching. They taught me how to dribble, how to play offense and defense, but they also taught me to how to be disciplined while pushing you to the best of your abilities. Everything I know today came from them.”
Fajardo later became one of the most recognizable players in the youth athletic circuit during her middle and high school at Gill St. Bernard and as a member of the New Jersey Sparks team, which competes in the exclusive Girls Elite Youth Basketball League.
Last year, Fajardo, alongside Kristine Cayabyab, Camille Clarin and Angelica Marie Surada, captured the bronze medal in the FIBA 3×3 U18 Cup in Malaysia. beating China, 14-11. Up to this day, Fajardo attributes this success to the MILO BEST Center, a legacy that the late basketball great Coach Nicanor Jorge had left for the country’s youth athletes.
“Coach Nic has positively impacted my life and even my Dad’s life. He actually saw the potential in me when I didn’t even know what kind of opportunities basketball holds for me,” Fajardo said.
Fajardo plans to return to the Philippines and give back in whatever way she can.
“I will definitely take advantage of the exposure I will be getting in the United States. I am definitely not done yet with my basketball career in the Philippines. I have to pay my respects to my country. Whenever I am called, I’ll be ready to represent the flag,” said Fajardo.