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MANILA, Philippines – Entering his third straight FIBA World Cup campaign, longtime Gilas Pilipinas standout Japeth Aguilar has now taken the reins as the national team captain for the 2023 edition, carrying with him a storied leadership lineage that makes up what Philippine basketball is today.
Being a textbook model of skills, consistency, and professionalism, the 36-year-old forward took the daunting duty head on as Gilas aims to no longer be a mere World Cup stepping stone for other higher-ranked teams.
Thankfully for Aguilar, he didn’t need to look too far back in the history books to find predecessors worthy to take after for his new job with Gilas.
“Just based on my experience from my previous captains, Jimmy Alapag and Gabe Norwood, they really set the bar high,” he said in a pre-World Cup press conference at the Araneta Coliseum on Thursday, August 24.
“What I saw in them is how they take pride in their craft. Every day in practice, their routines don’t change, [nor] their professionalism. With the highs and lows, they never changed. That’s what I want to emulate from them and hopefully, the younger guys see that.”
Ever the low-key player, Aguilar was the first to quickly admit his shortcomings as a new leader, before adding that he hopes to make up for them in other ways that can help Gilas be a better team.
“I’m really not [as] vocal and as eloquent like those guys, but for me, day in, day out, I’m just trying to strive for excellence on the court,” he continued. “Hopefully, that’s what I pass on to the younger guys.”
Moving forward in the World Cup, it looks like Gilas will be a team structured more around silent, no-frills guidance than loud, passionate rallies exemplifying the “Puso” mantra, as Aguilar is essentially sharing the leadership role with June Mar Fajardo and Jordan Clarkson – two more soft-spoken stars.
While Aguilar’s style will definitely be different than those who came before him, his foundation remains the same from previous World Cup runs and all tournaments that happened in between.
Wins, after all, don’t come with words alone. – Rappler.com