High-leaper Japeth Aguilar a year older, but feels as strong as ever
Japeth Ginebra blows candles on his birthday cake at Ginebra practice. Karlo Sacamos

JAPETH Aguilar turned a year older on Thursday, but he feels as young as ever – still with a spring in his step and the hops that he’s known for.

“I feel good naman body-wise, conditioning-wise,” the Ginebra and Gilas Pilipinas big man said in a short chat with SPIN.ph after practice on the day he celebrated his 31st birthday and on eve of their PBA Philippine Cup game against Phoenix.

“Feel ko athletic ability ko, nandun pa rin, so hopefully ma-maintain ko, magtuloy-tuloy, ma-stretch ko pa,” the 6-foot-9 beanpole added.

The first overall pick in the 2009 rookie draft out of Ateneo and Western Kentucky University, Aguilar is hoping for the Gin Kings to relish each step of their way this season – more than focusing on the success at the end of each conference.  

“Madami akon hiniling kanina eh, pero one yung sana maging maganda yung journey namin ngayong taon, yung buong team,” the eight-year veteran said. “It’s not all about winning, although yun yung gusto mong ma-achieve, pero feeling ko mas magandang lesson 'yung journey.”

“Yun yung wish ko sa team. Important din yun sa young guys, sa career nila,” he added as the Gin Kings aim to win a championship outside a import-powered conference.

For himself, Aguilar is hoping to stay healthy and continue a fruitful career.

“It’s more of nagpasalamat ako kay God, and then humbled ako sa mga blessings na binibigay niya sa akin,” the Sasmuan, Pampanga native said. “Ayaw kong sabihin ‘more blessings,’ kasi magiging selfish yun eh. Humingi na lang ako ng tulong sa kanya, guidance, protection for family.”

Gin Kings veteran Mark Caguioa butted in during the interview and had one immediate wish ahead of their matchup against the Fuel Masters.

“Win the game,” Caguioa said with a smile before returning to the court to do his extra shooting work.

Let’s see if that last wish will be granted on Friday.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos