by Waylon Galvez
There is no doubt that Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is enjoying the best start of his PBA career.
The 26-year-old Aguilar, an athletic 6-foot-9 forward, has been consistent in producing impressive numbers and that is one of the reasons why the Kings won their first two assignments in the ongoing PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup.
In two games, so far, Aguilar has averaged 18.5 points, nine rebounds, 3.5 shot blocks and two assists in 36 minutes of action, numbers that are better compared to his career averages of 7.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 shot blocks per 18 minutes.
Aguilar credited his Ginebra coaches, led by Ato Agustin, and teammates for his resurgence.
“It’s a team effort. The reason why I’m playing well is because we’re executing well on offense and we’re working hard on defense,” said Aguilar as Ginebra guns for a perfect 3-0 start when it clashes with his former team Globalport Thursday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We’re all focused on our game plan, on details how to play a particular team. Personally, I know the team needs me to stay in shape, stay healthy so I’m doubling my effort to in training and in our practice, and in working harder during games,” he added.
In the Kings’ opening game, an 86-69 win against sister-team the San Mig Coffee Mixers, Aguilar had 18 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field and 10-of-14 from the free throw line, while adding eight rebounds and five shot blocks.
Aguilar got his first double-double this season with 19 points and 10 rebounds with two shot blocks and three assists in a 97-84 triumph over Rain or Shine last Sunday.
Ginebra point guard LA Tenorio, who has played with Aguilar several years ago at Ateneo and also with Gilas Pilipinas in the last FIBA Asia Championship that won the silver medal here to qualify in next year’s World Cup in Spain, believes Aguilar is more matured now as compared to his previous seasons in the PBA.
“Kung meron man akong napansin sa kanya, ‘yung maturity niya talaga as a player,” said Tenorio.
“Pero siempre lagi din namin siya pinapa-alalahanan na magiingat sa katawan niya sa health, kasi ‘yung klase ng laro ni Japeth alam naman natin na medyo prone sa injury dahil talon ng talon, kaya dapat nasa kundisyon siya palagi,” Tenorio added.
Agustin, the Ginebra mentor, said that the arrival of 7-foot rookie center Greg Slaughter also helped Aguilar as it provided the team a solid defensive wall on defense. In one play against Rain or Shine, Beau Belga was able to elude Slaughter but Aguilar was there to help as he blocked the shot.
“Sabi nga meron kaming ‘twin towers’ with Japeth and Greg,” said Agustin.
Aguilar joined Ginebra last season (Governors’ Cup) after he was dealt by Globalport after just one conference (Commissioner’s Cup). He was originally selected by Burger King (now Air21) as the No. 1 overall pick during the 2009 Rookie Draft.
After just one game, he was traded to Talk ’N Text.
He did not play for TNT as he was loaned to the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas in November 2009 to October 2011. He returned to TNT for the 2011-12 Season. After that, he went to the US to pursue his NBA dream and was drafted by the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA D-League but wasn’t offered a spot to the team.
He returned home, but prior to his comeback, Talk ’N Text – upon his request – agreed to trade him to Globalport in exchange for Rabah Al-Hussaini.