'IF I could put Chris Tiu’s brain in Japeth Aguilar’s body, I will have the perfect player'
That statement - which popped up in our comments section when we did a tribute piece on Chris Tiu last week - was attributed to Rajko Toroman; supposedly said during his spell as coach of the original Gilas team.
Did Rajko really say it? Or it is just an urban legend?
Intrigued, we set out to contact the veteran Serbian coach, who is now based in Belgrade with his family. As soon as we tossed him the question, the former national coach let out a hearty laugh.
“Yes I did say that. It’s not important now why I said that,” said Toroman.
But before his quote could be misinterpreted, the 63-year old coach bared that he let out the line during a fit of frustration with Aguilar, who, before his star turn at Ginebra, struggled to fit in early in his career.
As far as he could remember, Toroman bared he made the remark in one of his dugout rants back in 2009. That time, Toroman said he was only challenging the 6-9 wingman to complement his agility and athleticism with “basic basketball intelligence."
“Japeth can improve the IQ like Chris, he can be a great player. He has the size, he can jump, he can do everything that is possible in basketball but sometimes he is not able to do, [at that time]” he said.
At that time, of course, Toroman was already impressed with the basketball IQ of Tiu.
“Chris’ IQ for basketball is one of the best, highest in the Philippines. He is not so quick, he doesn’t have the size, but his IQ is impressive. Tactically he is one of the best players in the Philippines,” said Toroman of the former Ateneo star.
Toroman, of course, is one of the happiest persons to see Aguilar transform into the player he wanted him to be at Ginebra.
“Japeth has greatly improved. I am now seeing in him things I wanted him to work on during our time together at Gilas," said Toroman, who also coached the national teams of Iran and Jordan as well as Petron (now San Miguel) and Barako Bull in the PBA.
Japeth, the problem child from years ago, is now but a distant memory, Rajko said.
"Believe me, you wouldn’t want to see and much so, you wouldn’t want to work with the Japeth Aguilar from ten years ago,” he said.