No doubt! Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings’ Japeth Aguilar is slowly getting back to his peak form in the middle portions of their best-of-seven titular series against the TNT Tropang Giga.
Despite entering the PBA bubble late due to reports that he underwent rehab for an old injury, Aguilar has been doubling his effort to regain the shape that earned him the Finals MVP award in the Governors’ Cup earlier this year.
“May mga unexpected na nangyari ganyan. Ngayon tyinaga ko lang talaga nung nandito na ‘ko sa bubble. Yun nga parang nagmamadali so sinubukan ko talaga i-force ‘yung sa sarili ko para mabalik sa rhythm, sa kondisyon,” Aguilar said last October.
“Almost two months akong inactive before coming into the bubble so sinubukan ko humabol. Ayun tyinaga ko lang talaga dahil dalawang beses lang ako naka-practice with them before the season started,” added Aguilar, who just recently top-scored Game 1 with a double-double 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting, alongside 16 rebounds.
In a post-game interview, the 6-foot-9 forward Aguilar reiterated that he and the rest of the Gin Kings simply gave their all en route to the 100-94 victory over Bong Ravena’s ward Tropang Giga.
“Yung game kanina, we gave it all on the floor lang talaga. Talagang whatever happens, bahala na. Talagang kanina focus kami sa gameplan namin, so yun,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar, who played for over 34 minutes in their semis win-or-go-home match against the very promising Meralco Bolts, scored half of his Barangay Ginebra’s eight points in the overtime, including the huge dunk off an LA Tenorio feed with 19.6 seconds left on the clock. He played 36 minutes in Game 1 of the PBA restart finale.
With this, Aguilar, born on January 5, 1987, is our featured player for today.
1. Suited Up As A College Freshman For The Blue Eagles
For two seasons (67-68), Aguilar played for the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles.
During his freshman year, playing for the Katipunan-based squad, he scored 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks in 55 minutes of action in 10 games. Unfortunately, due to appendicitis, his first season stint was put to a halt.
The following season, the then-sophomore Aguilar bounced back from a disappointing season 67 as he averaged 5.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.2 blocked shots per game to help lead Ateneo to a 10-4 finish in 2005.
Aguilar shot a high 55.4% from the field for the season, and he was credited with multiple blocks in 12 of Ateneo’s 16 games — that included a career-high of seven and two other contests with five or more.
Aside from this, he also led the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) in rejections during his sophomore season, with a total of 48 blocks in 16 games.
2.From Blue Eagles To Hilltoppers
After two years of playing in the UAAP, he transferred to the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. He entered the Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States as a junior in 2007, where he saw action as a reserve.
During the season, Aguilar posted eight points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots, three assists, and two steals in just 32 minutes of action in the Hilltopper’s first two contests. He recorded four points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his collegiate début against Kennesaw State on November 9, 2007. He then collected two points, five rebounds, and a game-best three blocks on November 13 against Kentucky Wesleyan. He was injured in practice after the victory over Kentucky Wesleyan and missed the rest of the year.
3. Son Of A PBA Player
Aguilar’s father, Peter Aguilar, was a former professional basketball player in the PBA.
4. Pursuing The NBA Dream
Aguilar is the first player born and raised in the Philippines to receive an invitation to work out with an NBA team.
Before the evaluation, Aguilar attended some open workouts hosted by the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League (NBA D-League). Aguilar’s team lost, but he had managed to put up some notable statistics. He finished the game with 10 points, five blocks, four rebounds, and an assist. His performance also included three dunks.
In early October 2012, Aguilar worked out with the NBA D-League team, the Santa Cruz Warriors, who expressed willingness to draft him if he was still available when their turn came in the draft.
5. First-ever Filipino To Be Drafted In The NBA D-League
During the 2012 NBA Development League draft on November 2, out of 139 players, Aguilar was the 109th overall draft pick and was drafted 13th in the 7th round by the Santa Cruz Warriors, the D-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. With this, he became the first-ever Filipino to be drafted in the D-League.
6. Playing For The PH Flag
After his stint with the Hilltoppers and NBA tryouts, Aguilar returned to the Philippines to join the Gilas program to represent the Philippines.
Gilas, who was then coached by Rajko Toroman and mentored by Chot Reyes, captured the silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup in Manila and earned the berth that represented the country in World Basketball in Spain. This brought back the glory days of Philippine basketball on International Scene.
7. Return To The PBA
The Burger King Whoppers nabbed Aguilar as the team’s overall No. 1 draft pick in the 2009 PBA draft.
However, days after the PBA draft, he boldly declared that he would join the Smart Gilas Pilipinas development basketball program instead, a move which caused controversy within the PBA and angst, especially by the team that drafted him. PBA Governor Lito Alvarez even went to the extent of banning Aguilar from the league for his refusal to sign with the Whoppers.
A few years later, Aguilar’s request to be traded from Burger King Whoopers to the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters was approved. He was then traded by the then-Tropang Texters (now TNT Tropang Giga) to the GlobalPort Batang Pier for Rabeh Al-Hussaini. Later on, Aguilar was traded anew by the GlobalPort to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel via a 4-team trade.
8. Mobile Legends Ambassador
In 2018, Aguilar became a Mobile Legends: Bang Bang ambassador for the LIGA event relating the e-sport game to basketball. Aguilar said that MLBB shares common characteristics with basketball where players form a bond and work together as a team.
9. Received Numerous Accolades
• 5× PBA champion (2012 Philippine, 2016 Governors’, 2017 Governors’, 2018 Commissioner’s, 2019 Governors’)
• PBA Finals MVP (2019 Governors’)
• 7× PBA All-Star (2013–2019)
• PBA All-Star Game Co-MVP (2019)
• 2× PBA Mythical First Team (2017, 2018)
• 2× PBA Mythical Second Team (2016, 2019)
• 3× PBA All-Defensive Team (2016, 2017, 2019)
• 2013 FIBA Asia Championship (Manila, Philippines)
• 2014 FIBA Asia Cup (Wuhan, China)
• 2017 SEABA Championship (Manila, Philippines)
• 2011 William Jones Cup (Taipei, Taiwan)
• 2019 Southeast Asian Games (Manila, Philippines)
10. Blocked 600 Times Or More
In one of their wins in the PBA bubble against the Tropang Giga, Aguilar, playing for 39 minutes, tallied 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, two assists, and a historic block.
According to league stats chief Fidel Mangonon III, Aguilar’s block on Poy Erram at the 6:25-mark of the third quarter was the 600th of his career. He then became only the 12th player in league history to achieve such a feat.