No doubt, excitement is written all over the face of slamdunking big man Japeth Aguilar these days.
Just the idea of playing for Barangay Ginebra, with whom his father, Peter was a backup center during the 1980s, excites him the most.
“Oo, excited na ako maglaro sa Ginebra,” Aguilar shared after another hard but fruitful workout with the Gilas Pilipinas squad on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Aguilar knows that expectations are high, but that’s also one of the reasons why he’s been talking from time to time with Gilas teammate and Ginebra resident star LA Tenorio to make sure his transition in the pro league’s most popular ball club would be smooth.
The 6’9″ former Western Kentucky Hilltopper arrived at the Gin Kings after being traded by the Globalport Batang Pier last June. Barangay Ginebra shipped rookie big man Yousif Taha to Globalport and a future pick in order to acquire the services of Aguilar, who registered modest numbers in his one and only PBA conference with the Batang Pier.
Before Aguilar’s arrival, the Gin Kings surprised everyone during the Commissioner’s Cup after finishing second behind eventual champion Alaska Aces. Barangay Ginebra did it after falling into a 0-4 hole, before a change of import from Herbert Hill to Vernon Macklin suddenly turned things around.
The then Alfrancis Chua-mentored squad steered the team to playoff victories against twice-to-beat Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals before pulling off a sudden death Game 5 triumph against powerhouse Talk ‘N Text.
Barangay Ginebra’s fortunes though ran out in the Finals as Alaska’s tenacious defense and imposing size advantage eventually led to the Aces’ 3-0 title romp.
Aguilar knows he’s not the “savior” of the team, which is bidding to win a PBA championship since tasting its last title in the 2008 Fiesta conference.
But what he promised to do is play defense and help out in the rebounding department, something the Gin Kings had a hard time doing when ranged against taller and beefier ball clubs this season.
For now, Aguilar has his eyes set on helping Gilas land one of the top three slots in next month’s Fiba-Asia men’s championships.
It would be his third tour of duty in the Fiba-Asia showpiece, where he hopes that the third stint would be a charm this time.