The Saga of Japeth Aguilar

‘Who is Japeth Aguilar?’
Very few players in the history of Philippine Basketball has been as polarizing as Japeth Aguilar. First of all, who is Japeth Aguilar? Japeth is the son of former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Peter Aguilar. Peter was listed as 6’6″, and played most of his PBA career with Ginebra San Miguel, one of the most popular teams ever in the history of the league.

Peter ended up with a son in Japeth that is taller than he is at 6’9″. Now, despite being a Basketball-crazy country, Filipinos are generally short, with Centers and Forwards generally averaging only around the 6’4″-6’6″. So any player over 6’7″ automatically generates a LOT of interest.

What makes Japeth even more intriguing is that not only is he taller than average, he is also quite athletic. He has an excellent vertical leaping ability, enabling him to dunk the ball consistently with ease with both hands, even during actual games. The last Filipino player I remember having this capability was the high-leaping 6’4″ Benjie Paras.

‘Tragic Expectations’
That combination of height and leaping ability has captured the imagination of most Philippine Basketball fans. For so long we have been unable to send a player to the National Basketball Association (NBA), and suddenly here is someone who is quick, tall and can jump high. Being a Basketball-crazy country, they (sadly) ignorantly thought he was an automatic NBA-caliber player. And most tragic of all, Japeth himself has been convinced of this idea.

The reality is that while Japeth is tall, and has excellent athleticism, he lacks the tools to become a good Basketball player. For one, he lacks the COORDINATION to be able to move well with the ball. You can see this clearly when he does his low-post moves, in which he is quite awkward with the ball. As a result, his post moves are now almost non-existent.

He does a little better with his face to the basket moves, but that lack of coordination means he is limited only to moving towards his strong side, and is unable to change direction once he starts his drive. He also awkward in terms of receiving passes in the crowded area of the paint and going strong to the basket. His outside shots are mediocre at best, definitely not enough for him to be a consistent threat from that area.

In terms of rebounds, he doesn’t have a good nose for the ball, and is not one to fight hard and bang bodies to get them in the paint. He is thin, but that has not kept players like Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben from being the top rebounders in the PBA. The more important think are the POSITIONING, and willingness to play PHYSICAL, something which Japeth is unable to do. Observers say that Japeth lacks “Basketball IQ”, and that is definitely right, as he just doesn’t have the natural IQ to be a good Basketball player.

About the only consistent thing that Japeth does is SHOT-BLOCKING. He has fairly good timing, and with his height and leaping ability he is able to block shots at a pretty good average per game. Despite his shot-blocking prowess, he is not necessarily a good INDIVIDUAL defensive player as his opponents simply body him up, or go around him. He may block one or two shots, but not MOST of his opponents shots.

Japeth is therefore pretty much ONE-DIMENSIONAL on the court, being able to do just one thing well, at the expense of a lot more. Coaches have problems fielding a player who can only block shots, but can’t defend, rebound or score points.

‘Attittude Problems, and Mediocre Career’
Worst of all is Japeth’s attittude. He seems to have a “Star Complex”, he seems to have convinced himself that he is a great player because of his height and leaping ability, and blames others for his inability to produce. He doesn’t take criticisms from coaches well, he feels he always has to be treated well as a player. He is not humble enough to ACCEPT his limitations as a player, and to WORK HARD by doing long hours in practice to improve his game.

His record speaks for itself, let me enumerate them one by one:

* He played two seasons with the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles in the Universities and Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP), where he had a mediocre freshman season, averaging only 1 point, 1 rebound and 1 block per game. He had a much better sophomore season, where he averaged 6 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.

* Despite a good Sophomore year, Japeth decided to try his luck in the United States (US) National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1, the premiere Basketball College League in the US, where he ended up being recruited by Western Kentucky University (WKU). This caught ADMU by surprise, but had to let go of him as per his decision.

* Ultimately, Japeth’s gamble did not turn out well, because after sitting out one year in residency, his career at WKU turned out to be quite mediocre. He averaged 3 points and 1 rebound in 13 minutes of play before he got injured after only three games, and was forced to sit out the rest of the season. The next season he got back, but only averaged 1 point and 1 rebound in 5 minutes of play, spending most of his time on the bench.

* At this point, Japeth’s career took a more interesting turn. Despite his mediocre career at WKU, he tried his luck in Europe, where he got nowhere, and was forced to come back to the Philippines. While in the country, got an invitation to play for Smart Gilas, the National Basketball team backed by tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP). He refused, saying he wanted to try his luck in the PBA, so he entered the PBA Draft, where he was picked number one overall by Burger King. It was then that he made a strange and stupid decision: After getting his wish of being picked first, he turned around and said he wanted to play for Smart Gilas instead. This left Burger King holding the bag, as they now ended up with nothing. After a storm of controversy that lasted a year or so, Japeth finally got his wish to play with Smart Gilas.

* Japeth spent three years with Smart Gilas, where his mediocre numbers continued. He averaged 6 points, 1 block, 4 rebounds in 16 minutes of play in the most important tournaments the Smart Gilas team played in.

* After being a bust again with Smart Gilas, he decided to try his luck in the PBA, with TNT. And again, his mediocre numbers continued, averaging 7 points, 1 block and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes of play.

The numbers in his career shows that at best, Japeth has always had mediocre numbers in the top level of competitions in the country, or elsewhere. But the saga of Japeth Aguilar continues, as despite his mediocre numbers, Japeth has gone out to try his luck in the NBA. Let me add this paragraph to add to the story of his career:

* In 2012, Japeth decided to forego his season in the PBA after his contract expired, deciding to try his luck in the NBA instead. He went into the open try-outs of NBA teams, but while they were intrigued with his height and athleticism, he was not picked by any NBA team. After this failure, he now decided to try his luck with the NBA D-League teams, attending open try-outs by these teams, and eventualy getting picked by the Santa Cruz Warriors as the 13th pick in the 7th round of the draft, the player picked 109th overall out of 139 players.

‘Parting Shot’
And so the Saga of Japeth Aguilar continues. It might take a couple of years for the next installation of this blog to come out, but what I can say for now, is this: Being STUBBORN does not always mean you will succeed, in fact it often ends up otherwise. Japeth not only has a “Star Complex”, but probably a DELUSION of his “grandeur”. His record speaks for itself again and again, and this is the fact that he is not as good a player as he thinks he is.

It is time for him to accept his limitations, and stop blaming others for his failures. Perhaps he could also try to correct his deficiencies as a player, if he can.

Sources:

Japeth Aguilar Wikipedia Page

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