JAPETH Aguilar is finally living up to his billing in the PBA - and that can only be good news for the man who made the gamble to include him in the Gilas Pilipinas pool.
“Ganda. Maganda nilalaro niya (Japeth). Good games,” said national coach Chot Reyes, a day after the agile big man combined splendidly with import Justin Williams in Globalport's 89-80 victory over Brgy. Ginebra in the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Friday night.
Reyes and Aguilar had a testy relationship at Talk 'N Text that ended acrimoniously when the 6-9 slotman refused to sign a contract extension with the franchise and instead hied off to the US to pursue his NBA dream.
The five-time PBA Coach of the Year also lashed out at Aguilar on Twitter after Spin.ph headlined the big man's wish to be traded by Talk 'N Text due to what he perceived was lack of playing time under Reyes.
“Son, playing time is earned, not demanded/expected,” tweeted Reyes last January 21. “Wanna play at crunchtime? Work so hard your coach can’t afford to sit you. If he does, work anyway!”
Now Reyes is happy to see Aguilar do just that.
Three games into his stay at Globalport, Aguilar is not only earning his playing time but also justifying the exposure with splendid averages of15.6 pts, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
“Siguro kulang siya sa playing time nun sa Talk 'N Text, tapos sa Globalport iba yung kanyang role," admitted Reyes, who nonetheless said he had no regrets with his decisions concerning Aguilar back when he was still coaching the Texters.
“Limang sunod na finals kami nuon sa Talk 'N Text, how will I regret that?” added Reyes.
Reyes also it was easy to explain why Aguilar didn't get at Talk 'N Text the playing time he now enjoys with the Batang Pier. “Eh sa Talk n Text may (Ranidel) de Ocampo, (Kelly) Williams at Ali Peek. Sa Global Port, wala. That’s basketball, it’s what team you have," he said.
More than anything else, Reyes is happy to put all these behind them and include Aguilar in his 17-man pool for the Fiba-Asia Men's Basketball Championship in Manila in August.
“Marunong pala ako pumili (ng pang national team),” said Reyes in jest. “Sana magtuloy-tuloy (ang magandang laro) especially sa laro niya sa national pool.”
Aguilar, for his part, said he is thankful to Reyes for being made part of the national pool.
“Nag-thank you nga ako kay coach kasi kinuha niya ulit ako," said Aguilar, calling Reyes his mentor. “He has been good to me.”
Aguilar said he wants to keep improving to make himself worthy of a place in Gilas’ final 12-man pool.
“Na kay coach Chot na yun (kung masasama ako sa final lineup). Pero para sa akin, dapat best lineup. Ako naman ibibigay ko lang ang lahat ng kaya ko."