JAPETH Aguilar proved up to the task of manning the slot alongside Andray Blatche, at least against an undermanned Iran side in a friendly.
Coach Tab Baldwin is also satisfied so far, although he warned the Ginebra big man about regressing into old habits.
Aguilar made an early impact for Gilas Pilipinas in its 81-70 win over Iran in their tune-up game at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, ending up as one of five home players to score in double figures.
Sent in for Marc Pingris halfway through the first quarter, the Ginebra star forward took advantage of every open shot when the attention was on Blatche, scoring all but two of his 12 points during that stretch to help the national team jump to a 29-15 lead.
“Nung nakita kong open ko, hindi na ako nag-hesitate, talagang tinira ko na yung mga open shots,” Aguilar said. “Mabuti naman at pumasok. I think it was a good shooting night for me.”
It was, in fact, a perfect shooting night for the 29-year-old cager as he made all his five shots and two free throws in 15 minutes.
That also showed his maturity in international play. Criticized for some unnecessary movements in past stints with the national team, the 6-foot-9 beanpole was calculated with his actions and showed no hesitation in taking open jumpers.
“As the years pass, ang dami kong natututunan along the way,” Aguilar admitted.
“Sa PBA lalo na nung na under ako kay coach Tim (Cone), dun talaga nag-start yung mag improve yung ibang aspect ng laro ko.”
“Lahat kami talaga sa team, hindi lang ako, nag i-improve,” he was quick to add. “So 'yun lang yung contribution na maibibigay ko.”
National coach Tab Baldwin believes consistency is the key for Aguilar.
"We believe he will do that and the more he does that, the more were gonna be able to tap in his skillset," he said. “(But) he has to break some of his PBA habits where he can just be big, that won’t cut it here.”
Aguilar feels their offense as a unit remains a work in progress in the weeks leading to Gilas' first match in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament against France.
“I think for us, 'yung execution pa namin as a team (ang kailangan ng improvement),” he admitted. “Kasi we got to think na you know individual skills, sometimes hindi talaga uubra lalo na kunyari kung inisip mo na makakalaban namin yung France, talagang kailangan team offense yung ilaro namin.”