Aguilar used year off to improve game, on and off court

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Aguilar used year off to improve game, on and off court

Post by Commissioner on Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:01 am

It didn't take long for Japeth Japeth Aguilar (206-C) to receive his “Welcome to American basketball” introduction.

Japeth Aguilar, who transferred to Western Kentucky from Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines last August, hadn't been used to the physical brand of basketball played in the United States but received a quick crash course.

The 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar was standing at the free-throw line in a scrimmage last year when a sprinting teammate ran into him. And according to Japeth Aguilar, the crash knocked him 15 feet away from where he originally stood.

“Oh my goodness,” Japeth Aguilar recalled. “When I first started, I used to get bumped and I'd be knocked out of control. It was a really big adjustment.”

It was a year of adjustments for Japeth Aguilar last season - from getting used to the physical play and style of American basketball to becoming comfortable with a new culture.

The Pampanga, Phillipines, native adjusted while redshirting at Western last year because of his transfer. But when he takes the court for the Hilltoppers this fall for his junior season, he'll be a player acclimated to his new surroundings.

“Last year was huge because the way he was practicing and playing from where he came from is nothing like what we do here,” WKU coach Darrin Horn said. “For him to be able to adjust and to be able to be a foreign player and adjust to life, language and academics here, he's made great strides.”

And on the court, those strides include getting used to physical play. Japeth Aguilar said he's gained 10 pounds since arriving at Western but is still a few pounds short of his ultimate goal of 220 pounds.

“There's so many more stronger and athletic players,” Japeth Aguilar said. “But I've gotten stronger with extra workouts in the weight room. Now, when I get bumped, I maintain my base.”

Even if Japeth Aguilar went through plenty of adjustments last year, the Hilltoppers could have used Japeth Aguilar last season.

There were plenty of times when Western's void inside was obvious. Western hopes that hole - because of Japeth Aguilar, other newcomers and the development of returning players - won't be so noticeable this season.

“No question (Japeth Aguilar could have been a factor),” Horn said. “At 6-9, how many nights did we feel like we just needed an athletic body out there - to bang and match length with North Texas, with South Alabama in our conference? We hope that's something he's definitely going to bring - an option in that area.”

Japeth Aguilar is expected to bring Western an imposing post presence.

During his sophomore season at Ateneo de Manila, he wasn't much of a scorer.

He averaged only 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, but he also averaged 3.2 blocks per game.

“He's got things that are hard to teach - height and length and terrific athleticism,” Horn said. “He's a terrific shot blocker and rebounds well.”

And Horn said Japeth Aguilar doesn't lack offensive skills.

“He's a guy that's got good skill level - can pass and catch, shoots the ball well, puts the ball on the floor really well for a player his size. He's coming along nicely.”

Japeth Aguilar has waited patiently for his opportunity to play while having to make a strong commitment to play basketball in the United States. Japeth Aguilar is reportedly the first Filipino-born basketball player to sign a Division I scholarship.

The route here began with his father Peter, who played in Philippine Basketball Association, before moving to the United States. Eventually, Japeth came over and participated in a summer camp with hopes of landing a scholarship offer.

“It's been a long wait for me,” Japeth Aguilar said. “From going through summer training and not playing last year, it's been a long wait. But it also helped me a lot.”
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