Japeth Aguilar working hard to leave a culture of confidence and continuous improvement in Gilas
Santino Honasan on Aug 30, 2019 04:43 PM
"Just never stop learning. You’ll never know when you get the opportunity. - Japeth Aguilar (Photo: Arvin Lim / ABS-CBN Sports)
Since 2009, six-foot-nine center Japeth Aguilar has been a regular fixture on the Philippine Men’s National Basketball roster, and with his blend of height and athleticism, it’s not hard to see why, especially since on the basketball court, height is might.
Coming off a decent run in the US NCAA with Western Kentucky, Aguilar was a highly-coveted piece for the nationals and for his part, Aguilar wasted no time in committing himself to the Gilas program.
“Back then, it was a dream come true para sa akin. They made a bold plan, nangarap sila ng malaki,” Aguilar told ABS-CBN Sports. “Ang pinangarap nila is makapasok sa Olympics, tapos, it ended up na nakapasok kami sa World Cup, Yun yung naaalala ko before, tapos sabi ko sa sarili ko na 100 percent, ibibigay ko lahat ng makakaya ko sa program na ‘to. Loyal ako, ibibigay ko yung dedikasyon ko sa program na ‘to.”
“We worked our way up, hindi naman basta-basta nangyayari yun. Talagang madaming sakripisyo na nangyari, hanggang sa nandito na kami ngayon,”
Aguilar is one of the 12 players who will represent the Philippines in the upcoming 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China beginning on August 31st. He is one of five other members of the team, along with Gabe Norwood, Andray Blatche, Paul Lee, and June Mar Fajardo, to have prior experience in the World Cup, with all of them being part of the 2014 team.
Finally achieving that goal of making the World Cup, Aguilar says, was a massive milestone not only for himself and the Gilas program, but also for the country.
“Iba, iba talaga. As in, makikita mo, bakas talaga sa mukha namin kung gaano kami ka-saya. Kumbaga, childhood dream mo yun eh, na na-achieve mo. Parang there’s fulfilment talaga, lahat ng pagod at sakripisyo, yun na-achieve namin. Sobrang saya talaga namin, and hindi mo ma-eexpress kung gaano yun ka-halaga sa Pilipinas.”
Now, five years after that unforgettable run, Aguilar is coming back to the World Cup in what he says could be his last tour of duty for the National Team.
“It might be my last, this one,” Aguilar admitted. “Kasi you never know eh. Nasa edad na rin ako, I’m 32 years old. I might treat this as my last, because the next one is 2023. By that time, 36 years old na ako and it’s great na nakikita ko itong mga young kids na matatangkad din na possibly could take my place.”
While he’s still on the team, Aguilar is making sure that he’s imparting his wisdom and knowledge to the next generation of stars and future Gilas regulars the he has the opportunity to be around, and self-confidence is the main thing that he preaches.
“Para sa akin, as much as possible, gusto ko sila mabigyan ng confidence, parang mga words of encouragement kasi gusto ko talaga na maging confident sila sa loob pag naglalaro sila, na kahit malakas yung kalaban. Expected naman talaga eh, na kahit sino yung kalaban natin, underdog yung Phlippines eh. Kumbaga sa naging experience namin sa Spain stint namin, laban lang.
“Wag masyado isipin na mataas yung level ng basketball ng mga kalaban. As much as possible, kumbaga ma-push ko sa kanila, kasi for me, basta gawin lang nila lahat ng makakaya nila and mag-play sila ng confidence. Like kami ni June Mar, he had to learn it on our own, kinailangan namin ma-experience yung ganun,” he continued.
When Aguilar does finally call it a career with Gilas, he only hopes that the ones who come after him learn to share his mindset of continuous development and improvement. This, Aguilar says, is the biggest thing he learned during his time with the National Team.
“For me, just never stop learning. You’ll never know when you get the opportunity. I mean, other countries might be struggling, so you can’t slack off, kumbaga yung program, yung Philippine basketball, mainly, continuously mag-improve. If you can see, other countries are getting stronger din, so kailangan continuous din yung progress ng players and the basketball program and the system of the Philippines.”
As for the future of Filipino big men, Aguilar sees a ton of potential in up-and-coming stars like Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, and Kobe Paras.
“Definitely sina AJ Edu, Kai Sotto, sila Kobe Paras because he has height and he can play multiple positions. Yun yung mga nakikita ko, and may experience na din sila playing internationally, so definitely sila yung mga magiging next players sa program ng Gilas.”
Japeth Aguilar and the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team begin their 2019 FIBA World Cup campaign on Saturday, August 31st. Their first matchup will be against Italy at 7:30 PM.
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