JAPETH Aguilar may have failed in his NBA bid, but he admits the experience he got in the United States prepared him for his duel on Friday night with Petron’s highly regarded import Renaldo Balkman.
The 6-9 Aguilar, who recently signed a three-conference deal with his new team Globalport at a maximum monthly salary of P420,000, held his ground when he got banged up by the quicker and more physical Balkman.
Aguilar also had the last laugh as he came through with two blocks in the final period – one against Balkman and another against Jay Washington - before grabbing a crucial rebound in the dying seconds to secure Globalport's come-from-behind 94-92 win.
“Medyo na-prepare talaga ako nung nasa (NBA) D-League ako. I know I’ll be going up against athletic and long guys like me,” Aguilar told Spin.ph after a game where he finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in 37 minutes of action.
Aguilar was drafted in the 13th round in last year’s NBA D-League by the Santa Cruz Warriors, but was waived on mid-November.
Arriving at Globalport following a straight trade that sent Rabeh Al-Hussaini to Talk ‘N Text more than a week ago, Aguilar said he couldn’t remember playing this long in his young PBA career.
“Thirty-seven minutes? Yeah, I think this is the longest (playing time for me),” said a beaming Aguilar.
The long-armed Aguilar averaged just 15 minutes last season in a Talk ‘N Text uniform.
While all eyes were glued on Aguilar, the newly-acquired Globalport big man and member of Chot Reyes' Gilas Pilipinas pool said he simply focused on his job, which was to help his team get off to a winning start in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Sa akin lang, I just wanted to play good and stay within the system. Sa simula, hinahanap ko yung rhythm ko,” said Aguilar.
“Nakaka-intimidate yung crowd kaya I tried not to look at them and just focused on playing, running the floor and blocking shots,” he added.