ALMOST a decade of international experience manifested for Japeth Aguilar on Tuesday night when he gave Gilas Pilipinas a huge lift in the 108-53 victory over Thailand in their Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship matchup.
The longest-tenured member of Gilas 5.0, Aguilar, a national team veteran since 2009, took over after the Filipino cagers’ offense could hardly get going in the first quarter, leading a second-period breakaway.
“He's been here from the start of the Gilas program but he's only 30, so there's a lot of basketball left in Japeth,” national coach Chot Reyes said. “But more than the longevity, it's his maturity.”
“In the previous games he was content in playing a support role, playing defense, setting screens, and rebounding,” he added. “Today, when Thailand did an excellent job on our other offensive weapons, Japeth came through.”
Coming in averaging 7.3 points on 52.6-percent shooting, 4.7 boards, and 1.7 blocks in 15.8 minutes in their first three games, Aguilar scattered a game-high 23 points on a perfect 9-of-9 from the field, five rebounds, and two rejections in just 17 minutes off the bench.
“Ano lang ako kanina, patient lang talaga,” Aguilar stressed. “Hindi ko nga hinahanap yung score. Kaso pag nakukuha ko, libre naman ako. Lahat ng mga tira ko, almost near the basket, kaya... crashing the boards, offensive rebounds, saktong napupunta naman sa akin yung bola.”
And playing a bench role makes Aguilar know the holes that needs to be plugged.
“Siguro coming off the bench ako, medyo nakikita ko yung nangyayari, kung ano yung kulang,” the 6-foot-9 beanpole said. “Kasi close game nung umpisa tapos parang medyo kailangan ng team to get going.”
Learning to analyze like that certainly comes with experience.
“I think it's just the continuing maturation of Japeth,” Reyes said.