As the PBA Commissioner’s Cup kicks off this Wednesday, Japeth Aguilar is embracing his additional role as an import-stopper.
The athletic big man has been a noted shot blocker because of his size and quickness, but Ginebra coach Tim Cone has given him and starting slotman Greg Slaughter the unenviable task of defending the other team’s imports in the 2nd conference.
“I’m really happy na binigay sa amin ni coach Tim yung challenge na yun (to defend imports). I’m really up for it,” Aguilar told FOX Sports.
The 6-foot-9 Aguilar is coming off a career-high 15.7 points in the Philippines Cup to go along with 8.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks per contest.
His numbers may be up as he played alongside Slaughter this season, but Aguilar isn’t contented with where he’s at right now.
“Every game this conference is important. And tingin ko, this conference will be super competitive yung mga laro kasi yung mga nagbabalik nga na imports, they are already familiar with how the PBA is played and familiar na sila sa mga teams nila,” he added.
Ginebra will be opening its Commissioner’s Cup campaign against NLEX on Friday, with the Road Warriors bringing back NBA veteran Al Thornton.
The sweet-shooting Thornton, who was given a clean bill of health last week by Dr. Raul Canlas, is best remembered from mowing down the Kings last season after burying 50 points before a full-house crowd at the Ynares gym in Antipolo.
The former Ateneo and Western Kentucky Hilltopper big man admitted that competition isn’t going to be easy in the PBA as it requires every Ginebra player to focus and work together in order to end the franchise’s 8-year title drought.
“For us, winning a championship is not that easy. We have to really work hard,” he said.
The Kings, though, are expected to miss starting slotman Greg Slaughter on their opening game as he recovers from measles.
Meantime, veteran forward Joe Devance said he understands how difficult it is to play in an import-laden conference, which is why he’s committed to teaching and pushing Slaughter and Aguilar to be at their best every game.
“I will do my best to put a lot of pressure on our bigs to really buckle down and do the best job as they can,” Devance said, one of Cone’s trusted forward since the American coach’s days with Alaska and Star (formerly San Mig).
“We don’t stop imports to score 30 (points). It’s really all about our team defense because it’s not just about Greg and Japeth against the import,” he added. — By Richard Dy