ALTHOUGH Japeth Aguilar is struggling to get his game going in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, multi-titled PBA coach Tim Cone is convinced the high-leaping Ginebra forward will remain a major asset for Gilas Pilipinas in the All-Star Game and in tournaments overseas.
The San Mig coach, who led the Philippine Centennial team to a bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, said the 6-9 Aguilar is a perfect fit for Gilas owing to his skills set which Cone said comes in handy under national coach Chot Reyes' system.
“That’s what Japeth is there (at Gilas) for, because he can streak for the rebound, he can shoot the jumpers and he’s really good in space,” said Cone, who will be calling the shots for the PBA All-Star selection in the game against Gilas on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6-9 Aguilar is averaging just 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in the midseason conference where he plays an average of 24 minutes a game - well below his average of 18.8 points and close to 10 rebounds during the season-opening Philippine Cup.
But struggling or not, Cone expects Aguilar to shine for Gilas not only in the All-Star Game but in the two internatonal tournaments the national team is set to take part in later in the year.
“If you play Japeth in space, he can become really, really be effective because that’s what you’re looking for at Gilas, someone who can shoot, someone who’s quicker and who can defend,” he added.
Cone expects the competition to be tough come Sunday, even if Gilas players will be playing for the first time together since the runner-up finish in the Fiba-Asia championships last August in Manila.
“For Gilas, it would just be like going back to the bicycle. I expect them to play at a really high level on Sunday,” said the pro league's most successful coach.
“The last All-Star game (in Digos City), they were just starting to play together, still exploring each other. They were kind of in the infancy stage then.”