By Joey Villar
MANILA, Philippines – Former Talk N' Text and Smart Gilas Pilipinas standout Japeth Aguilar recently attended a private workout that was hosted by two NBA scouts, including one from the San Antonio Spurs in Woodland Hills, California.
The scouts – who reportedly didn't want to be identified and imposed a gag order on the staff who attended the workout – watched Aguilar, a former PBA No. 1 pick, as he did some sessions consisting of basic game simulated NBA drills.
“Well, it’s all over the news. As far as we can say we’re not going to disclose any team, [or] disclose any location,” Aguilar's US agent Chris McGarry said in a recent story by Joseph Pimentel at the Asian Journal, a Filipino-American community newspaper that caters to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York.
“All we can say is that he [Aguilar] had a private workout and call up and we obliged. All we can say is that we’re happy with what happened. We’re happy with the situation," he added.
Reports have it that the workout, which lasted a little over an hour, turned out pretty well for the high-leaping former US NCAA Division I Western Kentucky College player, whose contract with the Tropang Texters has already expired.
“God is good. He helped me get this opportunity. Earlier, we did a lot of shooting drills, the kind of drills that the scout wanted to see. And let’s just hope for the best,” said the 25-year-old Aguilar.
Aguilar, who also played for the Ateneo Eagles in the UAAP briefly before transferring to Western Kentucky, has re-launched his pursuit to become the first Filipino to ever play in the NBA since Raymond Townsend, a Fil-Am, made it to the league decades ago.
A week earlier, Aguilar has joined tryouts conducted by the Bakersfield Jam, an NBA Developmental League affiliate of the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks.
Out of a pool of 80 players, including several aspirants from the Pac-12 of the NCAA Division I schools like USC, Oregon and UCLA, Aguilar made it to the list that was pruned down to 20 by the end of the day for the two-team scrimmage the next couple of days.
Interestingly, the team of Aguilar, who was part of the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas team that made it to the semifinals of the FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China last year, lost but he finished with 10 points after making five of the nine shots he attempted, including three electrifying dunks.
He topped his effort by adding five massive blocks, four rebounds and an assist.
It was reported after the Jam tryout that Aguilar has been scheduled for a private workout for two scouts or talent evaluators, who were reportedly from the Spurs and the Orlando Magic.
Aguilar's forays were reported in sports websites spursnation.com and insider.espn.go.com.
Asian Journal and ABS-CBN also reported that skills coach Leo Balayon, who is also an assistant at Cal Tech men's team, has been helping Aguilar transition from a power forward to small forward, a position that he is being eyed to play in case he ends up in the D-League or the eventually the NBA.
“It’s going to take time. I’ve only had him for two weeks and he’s gradually getting better. He’s got the form and stroke down. Now, it’s all about repetition,” said Balayon.
Since performing extremely well in the Jam tryout, Aguilar said he received offers from teams like the Chinese Basketball Association, Canada's National Basketball League and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Aguilar though stressed the NBA and the D-League is his top priorities.
“For me I didn’t want it that way. I just wanted to stay quiet. Right now, I just want to improve every day, do my conditioning in the morning, do some on-court workouts in the afternoon [and] work on getting faster, getting stronger," Aguilar told Asian Journal and ABS-CBN.
“It’s going to open doors to some aspiring Filipino basketball players not only in the Philippines but here in America,” he added.