Japeth Aguilar proves he’s more than just a high-flyer with 1st Finals MVP award

The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings captured its 13th title in franchise history with Japeth Aguilar emerging as the brightest star of them all, claiming his first-ever Finals MVP award.

Having been in the league since 2009, the now 31-year-old Aguilar has accumulated quite a resume. He is now a five-time PBA champion, a seven-time All-Star and of course, a national team staple for Gilas Pilipinas.

Aguilar is a walking highlight waiting to happen. He uses his supreme athleticism to the fullest, sending Ginebra fans into a frenzy with an aerial display of ferocious dunks and blocks.

But despite his physical gifts, the 6-foot-9 slotman has never really been considered as one of the true elites in the PBA for some reason.  Japeth can be a game-changer, but there always seemed to be something lacking.

Aguilar has usually taken the back seat to the team’s plethora of talented guards during Ginebra’s last five title runs. At times, he was even dwarfed by fellow twin tower Greg Slaughter, who won the Best Player of the Conference in the 2017 Govs’ Cup.

It took him a while, but Aguilar finally had his coming out party in this season’s iteration of the season-ending tournament. He was exceptional in Ginebra’s 105-93 Game 5 clincher on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena, tallying 25 points, eight rebounds, and four rejections. He scored 13 points in the final 12 minutes, making sure Meralco did not live to fight another day.

In five games, Aguilar tallied 17.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks, while draining 56 percent of his shots from the field.

Finals newcomer Stanley Pringle and longtime Ginebra floor general L.A Tenorio were both phenomenal in the series, but it was Japeth’s dominance on both ends of the floor that stood out the most.

Some pundits questioned his basketball IQ during some of his stints with Gilas Pilipinas. But in the Finals, gone was the tentative Aguilar who would botch point-blank lay-ups under pressure. He made sure to finish strong each time, jamming the ball to the rim every chance he could.

With the Bolts’ center Raymond Almazan out of the picture due to an injury, Aguilar also seized the opportunity and took it upon himself to find his shot on offense.

Aguilar rim protection was also as top-notch as ever, emphatically denying Meralco import Allen Durham in several crucial stretches. Aguilar even moved to the 15th spot in the PBA’s all-time shot-blocking list.

Now getting the recognition he deserves, Aguilar’s confidence is at an all-time high. “Jumpin’ Japeth” can finally call himself an MVP, and one can only hope he takes the same mentality in the world stage when he dons the national colors anew.

(Image from PBA Media Group)