MANILA, Philippines - One more week.
Japeth Aguilar, the first Filipino born and raised in the Philippines drafted by the NBA D-League, has one more week to prove he is a good fit for the Santa Cruz Warriors.
The SC Warriors picked the Pamapanga native 13th in the 7th round, or 109th overall.
So far, Aguilar survived the first two cuts. From 17 players, the roster has been trimmed down to 12 for 10 available spots.
The staff is expected to make their final cuts this week, days before the team's first official D-League game on Friday, November 30.
In an interview with American-based website Philippine News over the weekend, Aguilar expressed appreciation for the opportunity.
"Para sa akin, isang malaking karangalan para sa akin kasi ever since bata pa ako basketball na talaga ginagawa ko (For me, this is a huge honor for me because eversince I was a kid, I've only been focused on basketball). I really love playing basketball. Para sa akin, talagang I'm very happy that they drafted me. I'm very thankful also," he said.
The 6-foot-10 forward also shared the challenges he has faced in training camp.
Aguilar said he felt the need to work on his footwork, after having been matched up with faster players.
"I played predominantly the forward position but lately Ive been working on guarding a lot quicker guys than me," he told Philippine News.
Aguilar added that he has had to learn how to play his position differently, specifically how to play small forward as well.
"Hopefully I learn how to play the three (small forward) position. That's my transition. Hopefully I'll be a better defender," he said.
If signed, Aguilar will be the first Filipino to play in the NBA D-League, a stepping stone for aspiring players to enter the NBA.
Living a dream
In the event that Aguilar will not be signed, Aguilar's agent in the Philippines, Matthew Manotoc, told Rappler that he would "most likely" return to the country and play in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) League, with his previous team Talk N' Text.
If selected, he added, Aguilar is expected to stay in the United States for at least a year.
Aguilar, who played for Western Kentucky in college, an NCAA Division I school, has tried to enter the NBA League in the past, attending pre-season camps. Last September, Aguilar was invited to train with the New Orleans Hornets but scout Don Seller was quoted as saying that Aguilar was not yet ready for the NBA.
But for now, Manotoc and Aguilar remain optimistic.
In a separate interview, Aguilar told Hernando Planells, a Rappler contributor, that he was doing well at camp.
The hopeful player knows what is at stake.
"Its really been my dream to play here in America and so far I'm living my dream. Because you know seeing all of this happen here is overwhelming. I grew up in a simple town and this is really overwhelming for me," he said.
"I know a lot of Filipinos, not only in the Philippines but here in America also, love the game. Filipinos are very passionate about basketball. I hope some day there will be Filipinos in the NBA." - Rappler.com