Tim Cone gives Japeth Aguilar his flowers for Gilas Pilipinas sacrifices

Delfin Dioquino

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Tim Cone gives Japeth Aguilar his flowers for Gilas Pilipinas sacrifices

REBOUND. Japeth Aguilar in action for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.


It is uncertain whether Japeth Aguilar played for Gilas Pilipinas for the final time, so national team head coach Tim Cone made sure to celebrate him by defending the veteran forward from his critics

MANILA, Philippines – It is uncertain whether Japeth Aguilar suited up for Gilas Pilipinas for the final time in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

After all, Aguilar – the oldest in the team at 37 years old – only came in as a replacement for injured big man AJ Edu.

So national team head coach Tim Cone made sure to celebrate the veteran forward by defending Aguilar after he received criticism for his play in the OQT in Riga, Latvia.

“I begged Japeth to join us in Latvia. He wanted to let the young guys do it and spend more time with his wife and new baby,” Cone wrote on X.

A national team mainstay, Aguilar hinted at retiring from Gilas Pilipinas after helping the squad capture the Asian Games crown for the first time since 1962 in Hangzhou, China, in October.

But he nonetheless answered the call when Cone brought him in for the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in February as injuries to Edu and June Mar Fajardo depleted the Philippines’ frontline.

With Edu unable to return to the pink of health from his knee injury, Cone asked Aguilar to reinforce the team one more time in the OQT, where the Philippines overachieved by upsetting Latvia and advancing to the semifinals.

“Kept begging. When AJ Edu went down, he finally relented after more begging,” said Cone.

Aguilar came off the bench in the two group stage games before he got slotted into the starting lineup for the semifinal clash against Brazil as Kai Sotto went down with a rib injury.

He finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the 71-60 loss to Brazil, which ended the Philippines’ bid of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

For Cone, the presence of Aguilar goes beyond the numbers.

“He led us, he was our team captain. His sacrifice for country was total,” said Cone.

Aguilar, though, is expected to relinquish his spot as Edu hopes to come back just in time for the second window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers in November.

Whether he plays for Gilas Pilipinas again, Aguilar has etched a remarkable national team career, representing the country in three FIBA World Cup editions and helping the Philippines regain Asian supremacy. –

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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.