Philippine basketball

Japeth Aguilar battles back from COVID-19 to bolster Gilas Pilipinas squad vs Lebanon

Delfin Dioquino
Japeth Aguilar battles back from COVID-19 to bolster Gilas Pilipinas squad vs Lebanon

BIG ADDITION. Japeth Aguilar provides Gilas Pilipinas length, athleticism, and shot-blocking.


SBP executive director Sonny Barrios says head coach Chot Reyes and his coaching staff, which includes Tim Cone, want Japeth Aguilar in the lineup

MANILA, Philippines – Limited practice time did not prevent Barangay Ginebra star Japeth Aguilar from cracking Gilas Pilipinas’ lineup.

Aguilar still made the 13-man squad for the Lebanon clash in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers despite recently being sidelined due to a positive coronavirus result.

The high-flying forward missed almost an entire week of practice before he joined the national team in training on Sunday, August 21, after being cleared of COVID-19.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios said Aguilar is a personal choice of head coach Chot Reyes and his coaching staff, which includes Gin Kings’ mentor Tim Cone.

“Truth to tell, coach Chot and the other coaches really want him in the lineup,” Barrios said in a mix of Filipino and English during the Philippine Sportswriters Association online forum on Monday.

“I talked to him in practice yesterday, he said he is okay. He did some light shooting and he watched the practice and scrimmage intently.”

Aguilar is the longest tenured member of this version of the national team as he represented the country in the 2014 and 2019 FIBA World Cup.

He last saw action for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, helping the team win a 13th straight gold medal on home soil.

Aside from his experience, Aguilar provides the Nationals length, athleticism, and shot-blocking as he remains one of the most prolific Filipino rim defenders at 35 years old.

The 6-foot-9 forward is coming off one of his best conferences in the PBA, averaging 17.1 points, 8 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.6 blocks in the Philippine Cup.

“It is a huge development to have him on board because coach Chot and the coaching staff really like him,” Barrios said. “Of course, particularly Tim Cone because he is a player of Tim Cone.”

Aguilar will be joined by his Ginebra teammate Scottie Thompson, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks, Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo, Roosevelt Adams, Calvin Oftana, and Carl Tamayo.

NBA player Jordan Clarkson reinforces the squad alongside 7-foot-3 big man Kai Sotto.

Gilas Pilipinas will fly Tuesday midnight to Beirut for its August 25 battle against Lebanon. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.