Should players be added to the Gilas people? With less than 3 months left, will it help or hinder?
I first met Japeth Aguilar 4 years ago at the NBA D-League tryout camp in Los Angeles.
It was there where I met this 6'9 Filipino "jumping jack" who had this raw athletic ability that was intriguing. Japeth was quiet and humble, very thankful that he had this unique opportunity to showcase his skills in front of the D-League coaches and personnel.
He had a strong tryout, demonstrating the ability to rebound, run the floor and finish at the rim. But you could also see that he needed a little more seasoning, more coaching and training.
So he returned to the Philippines and ended up playing for the Smart-Gilas team, the National team project that was coached by coach Rajko Toroman who had taken the Iranian National Team to the 2008 Olympics.
I followed his career with the Gilas team, not as closely as I would have liked but I kept track on his progress and development.
Earlier this year, with the help of Matthew Manotoc of Espiritu Manotoc basketball management, I went back to the Philippines, first time in over 20 years. It was there that I was able to visit with my brothers and sisters while conducting player development clinics with college and pro basketball players.
Japeth and I were able to reconnect and did a series of workouts where I saw that he had gotten stronger, quicker and his IQ had improved.
Fast forward to a few nights ago when he was drafted by the D-League team based out of Santa Cruz who is the affiliate of the Golden State Warriors. He is going to a great organization and a head coach who I have a huge amount of respect for, Nate Bjorkgren.
As Japeth enters some uncharted territory, here is some insight to what he has to look forward to during the D-League training camp.
When I first started coaching in the D-League I was very surprised how quick training camp was.
Players are usually drafted on November 1st or 2nd, travel arrangements have to be made and then when players get into town they have to go through their physicals.
This year it looks like that training camp will begin on November 9th and the first game is November 23rd... not a whole lot of time is given to get comfortable!
Training camp will more than likely open on November 8 or 9 -- teams must make travel arrangements with their players they drafted from all over the country. Once they get into their respective team's city, they will undergo medical tests and a physical to make sure that they are healthy.
Opening day in the D-League will be November 23rd which means players are in training camp for less then 2 weeks.
Players usually come in to training camp excited and thankful for the opportunity, excited to prove what they can do... that is until the first team meeting where the players come to the realization that there are 15-20 guys who are all trying to make the 10 man roster!
They will all eat, share rooms and experiences with teammates who may not be there tomorrow... Each player has their own personal story of success and failures and many of them feel that the D-League is their only way to realize their dream of playing in the NBA.
For Japeth he has to attack training camp in a very proactive and aggressive way. He has to overcome the stereotypes that naturally comes from playing basketball.
He's not strong enough, he hasn't played big time competition, he hasn't proven himself - these are all things that are quietly being said and all issues he will have to face in order to fulfill his dream.
Most D-League teams will make their cuts after practicing for 3-4 days, players are given ample time to showcase their skills with two-a-day practices.
Players are put in situations where they have to prove that they not only can play but that they have the basketball IQ to recognize situations that will arise during the season.
The NBA D-League is a very tough league.
Most players are not used to the travel nor the small cities that the organizations are based in.
When I was coaching with the Maine Red Claws, every one of our road trips besides to Springfield, MA was over 10 hours! On the court the players will have to get used to the terminology.
On offense many teams will coach the players how to use "step up" or "hammer screens." Defensively they will have to perfect the seven (yes there are 7!) different ways to defend the pick-and-roll and how annoying the defensive 3 second rule can become.
Playing in the D-League prepares you for the NBA where playbooks could be 3-5 inches thick!
Japeth will have to pick up and process the information very quickly so that there is no hesitation on his part. He will be tested physically and mentally and his production must be consistently growing each practice session.
He has to ask questions before and after practice, during the extra workouts he goes through with the coaches.
He should also take some time to hear the stories of Vitaly Potapenko a 10-year NBA veteran who grew up in Ukraine, played college ball in the US and had a great professional basketball career. He would give Japeth some great advice on his career and how to navigate through the tough world of basketball.
Teams will cut 3-6 players on the first round. Once Japeth gets past those cuts, practice will continue and a pre-season game will occur before the second and likely last cut before the season begins (some teams may cut more then twice in a preseason - all depends on the coaching staff).
By then, Japeth should have a good handle on sets and calls such as "Horns", "Zipper", "DHO", "Blue" among others. He would be getting comfortable in a role that fits the team and he should be gaining more confidence everyday in practice.
For both players and coaches the final cuts are always the hardest - coaches dissect every movement of every player wondering if they are making the right decision based on what they have seen in camp or on potential.
For players, they are often wondering if they did enough to impress the coaches, they will replay every practice and scrimmage in their heads, hoping that the coaches witnessed their hustle play, defensive stop or key basket they made.
Either way - there will be disappointments and there will be joy! Players who are cut will have to face the reality of where to play next.
For the ones who made the team, their journey isn't over, its only the beginning where they will have to fight everyday to prove that they belong.
Japeth Aguilar has to prove he belongs.
He cant take days off, he cant be happy with the experience, he has to attack this opportunity the same way he attacks the basket -- and finish with a dunk! - Rappler.com