GILAS Pilipinas big man Japeth Aguilar has earned praise from coach Chot Reyes, not so much for the three thunderous dunks he made in an emphatic win over Japan on Monday night but for the intangibles he brought to the Gilas cause with his energy off the bench.
Not bad for a player Reyes publicly scolded on Twitter months ago for his rant over his lack of playing time during his time with Reyes' Talk 'N Text team in the PBA.
Reyes is now singing a new tune, now that Aguilar has taken advantage of the second chance his former coach at Talk 'N Text had given him to redeem himself with the national team.
“Japeth has certainly given us a lift off the bench. In fact, in the scouting report, teams don’t look at that,” Reyes said after the 6-9 Western Kentucky alum scored seven points off the bench in a 90-71 Gilas victory over Japan in the Fiba-Asia championships.
Fans may remember Aguilar's three highlight-reel dunks the most but not so for Reyes, who find more joy from the enigmatic big man's enthusiasm and willingness to embrace the team concept.
Not bad for someone deemed "uncoachable" for much of his young career.
“Sa akin lang naman, every time pumapasok ako sa court, gusto ko lang focus ako sa game plan,” said Aguilar, whose above-the-rim plays in the second quarter pumped up the more than 13,000 fans that packed the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Kung sino ang kalaban namin, part ko lang naman, gawin ko lang ng maigi ang role ko. Iyun lang ang iniisip ko," the agile, athletically gifted big man added. "`Yung pagkakataon kanina, `yung moments na binibigay sa akin sa court, so I take (advantage of) that opportunity,” he added.
For now at least, Aguilar is not only playing well but saying the right things. And that should be music to Reyes' ears.