June Mar Fajardo and Andray Blatche’s loss is Japeth Aguilar’s gain.
While his contributions aren’t as outstanding compared to the heroics of Terrence Romeo, Christian Standhardinger, Jayson Castro, and yeah… Raymond Almazan. “Japeth Like It’s Hot” delivered for Chot Reyes.
Japeth made his National Team debut in 2009 (then called Powerade Team Pilipinas). Fresh from his Western Kentucky Hilltoppers stint, Japeth was sparingly used by Yeng Guiao. Guiao would then select Aguilar as the top pick of the 2009 PBA Draft but the then-immature frontliner would controversially leave Burger King to re-join the national team now-dubbed as Smart-Gilas. The move Despite his credentials, Japeth averaged less than nine minutes in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship. Rajko Toroman had Marcus Douthit in his lineup and had the likes of Ranidel de Ocampo, Asi Taulava, and Kelly Williams serving as competition to his position. Chot Reyes still included Aguilar in his 2013 team that creamed Korea and clinched a spot at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He would have a good game here and there but the team still had Douthit (and then Blatche in the World Cup), De Ocampo, Marc Pingris, and June Mar Fajardo.
Japeth would sit out in 2015. Blatche led the team with Taulava, De Ocampo, Pingris, and Sonny Thoss returning for national team duty. Unlike past editions, Aguilar is now with the Barangay Ginebra Kings. Rumor has it that SMC officials went stingy and decided to resist Tab Baldwin’s plea to release Fajardo and Aguilar for flag and pride.
But in some ways, his absence made the people ponder for his presence.
And now Japeth shares top dog spotlight alongside Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo as the team’s main big.
Against China, Aguilar played for nearly 26 minutes. In 2011, he played 41 minutes for the entire FIBA Asia Cup. Aguilar also posted 13 points, three rebounds, and four blocks.
Four F’N blocks!
But more than the production, Japeth will finally get the playing time. After earning Mythical Second Team honors last season, Japeth could very well earn his first Mythical First Team citation this season. Aguilar’s gameplay also gained critical acclaim. His game blossomed when he was traded to Ginebra and his basketball IQ improved when he had Tim Cone as coach. Whether or not you are a Ginebra fan, you can’t help but go bonkers whenever he volleyballs an opponent’s attempt to the wayside, throw the rack down en route to an emphatic dunk, or do normal basketball things to lift his team to victory.
So with mere bragging rights and FIBA rankings on the line, the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship took a backseat to the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers. China has already booked a spot since they are the home team so sending the likes of Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhelin, and Zhou Qi were rendered unnecessary. Ditto for Australia and in some ways, New Zealand. But this also means that Japeth Aguilar will have the chance to further his stock. The guy thought highly of himself at the start of his career. He looked for a college career in the States, saw the national squad as a chance to showcase his talents, and even tried his luck in the NBA D-League. If he can focus on the game, Japeth will reap the rewards.
This is the perfect time for Asia to check out the skills of Japeth Aguilar.