Japeth Aguilar played true to his potential just when crowd darling Barangay Ginebra needed him the most.
The athletic 6-foot-9 big man stood tallest—literally and figuratively—on Saturday night when he powered the Gin Kings past the GlobalPort Batang Pier 93-81 to open their PBA Governors Cup title campaign on a high note at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Aguilar, 29, flashed the sharp form that he hardly had a chance to display for Gilas Pilipinas in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament last week as he came off the bench and piled up 21 points, eight of them coming in the final canto when he teamed up with fellow veteran Sol Mercado and Chris Ellis in Ginebra’s strong finish.
The former top overall pick by defunct Burger King in 2009, Aguilar did his best to anchor the lane in the absence of frontcourt buddy Greg Slaughter, who’s recovering from an ankle surgery, and the abrupt exit of import Paul Harris who suffered a gruesome finger injury late in the third canto.
“Malaki yung naitutulong sa amin ni Greg. Ako personally nu’ng nawala sa amin si Greg, kailangan ready ako,” Aguilar told sports scribes after emerging from their dugout.
“Kailangan ready ako. ‘Yung energy ko, ‘yung conditioning ko, dapat andu’n kasi magiging doble ‘yung trahaho namin.”
Although he was not utilized by national team coach Tab Baldwin in the Gilas Pilipinas’ loss to Rio de Janeiro Olympics-bound France then saw limited minutes in their setback to New Zealand, Aguilar said he’s not trying to prove something.
Aguilar described his latest Gilas stint as “a good learning experience,” which enabled him to keep himself in tip-top shape and sharpen his skills set further.
“Sinubukan ko alagaan ang katawan ko. Right diet, tamanag pahinga rin. Nag-carry over rin sa practice,” he said. “Lahat ng aspects ng game (may natutunan ako). Kailangan on-point ka lagi. Hindi lang sa team namin kundi sa mga nakalaban rin namin.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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