All Eyes on the Puppet (Part 1)

Hmmm… so the Japeth Aguilar saga continues?

Burger King’s top guy has ever reason to get pissed at Japeth. The former WKU standout is about to face a brutal punishment for his intentions to not sign with the Whoppers so he could help the Smart-Gilas national team in international competition.

Since he arrived in the Philippines, Japeth is been RP basketball’s most sought player. After weeks of speculation, Aguilar finally decided to play for the PBA. Yeng Guiao was helpful to get this guy’s nod, with the coach a Pampanga native, just like Japeth’s dad, former RP team and PBA player Peter. However, Yeng Guiao will not coach the Burger King Whoppers for long… as he is about to run for the governor position in Pampanga.

With Japeth joining the PBA, he was automatically included to the list of cagers to play in the 2009 FIBA-Asia Championships in Tianjin. He was tested at the Jones Cup and while he was a late addition, he showed a lot of potential. In Tianjin while he delivered a strong debut, he missed three games due to fever. When he returned, he was seldom used. I guess the feeling was he could have helped more for the Powerade team had he had more minutes. Sure, his repertoire was more of dunks and presence but he wasn’t really struggling, unlike Arwind Santos, Kerby Raymundo, and Jayjay Helterbrand. But hey, its not like we can do anything to salvage a top spot. While in the Iran game Japeth wasn’t fielded, the international competition just became too complicated for our PBA team to endure.

So this could probably be one of the reasons why Aguilar is joining the “other” side.

Let’s compare three first rounders who didn’t play for the teams that drafted them.

In 2000, Purefoods selected Dino Aldaguer as their third pick overall. Aldaguer was a top DLSU guard, actually one of the cornerstones of their championship runs. At this point, all the big amateur names were being lured to the allure of the Metropolitan Basketball Association. At hindsight, Dino Aldaguer wasn’t a top three player, but with the draft depth rather borderline ghastly, the Hotdogs had no choice but to selected the best player available. Aldaguer failed to win a spot in their rotation and was sent to the free agent pool. Luckily, Alaska signed him (they just had Aldaguer’s teammate Don Allado). After a brief stint with the Aces, he signed with the MBA’s Negros Slashers and ICTSI in the PBL.

A couple of years back, new team Welcoat Dragons selected Abby Santos as their first ever draft pick (tenth overall). Santos hails for UP, he is bulky and while he has questionable offense, his defense could improve. The problem is, despite the obvious lack of credible manpower (and size), Santos didn’t sign. He ended up playing for the Lhuillier club in the PBL. He did end up in the PBA as a free agent for Air21 and TNT but he barely played for both squads. He is now in Liga Pilipinas.

The problem with Japeth Aguilar is that he was a first pick overall. BK is in grave need for height and it seems that it is Japeth’s task to give them their first championship. Before the draft the Whoppers traded Arwind Santos to San Miguel for a draft pick, Marc Pingris and Kenneth Bono (Pingris has been since sent to Purefoods while Bono could see action in Coke). Without Santos and Aguilar, the Whoppers will continue to have a lack of size and now… with only Gary David as the only superstar in the squad. This is actually the fault of Yeng Guiao’s no star player system… and they seem to be paying for it.

So let’s predict how the Japeth Aguilar situation could end:

1) PBA BANS JAPETH: Alvarez blames veteran sportsman Ronnie Nathanielsz for giving Aguilar bad advice. With the setup of Smart-Gilas, Japeth could try to play in European leagues to further hone his skills. Smart-Gilas coach Rajko Toroman believes that Japeth could play in Europe. This is a better route actually if he wants to get recognition in international play. Problem is, at this point, Japeth could pretty much be a benchwarmer there. Best bet for him is to go for the Asian Professional League that will be institutionalized this year. If he could dominate there, maybe a chance in Europe could be inevitable.

2) THE SMART – TNT CONNECTION: While Smart-Gilas says they have nothing to do with Japeth’s decision, they could be looking at a possible trade to acquire Aguilar. Of course, this could be mean that they need to give away a couple of their bigs (either a 1 on 1 trade to involve Ranidel de Ocampo and Ali Peek… or a two-on-one trade that could give the Whoppers either Yancy de Ocampo, Renren Ritualo, Jason Castro, the San Beda Connection, or a draft pick). Of course, we are talking about TNT and Burger King, who have been doing lopsided trades since time immemorial (BK gets the weaker side of things). This solves the Aguilar case for BK, with the team still in need of a star player.

3) WHAT’S THE PROBLEM, ANYWAY?: Lito Alvarez has expressed a go-signal for Aguilar to do extra-curricular things. This is a like an open marriage of sorts. Aguilar can push through his dreams of playing in the RP Team and at the same time, he’ll have a PBA team to back him up. With a maximum salary, this is a great place to be at, money-wise and star-wise. But in order for this to work, both sides need to compromise.

Whoever is telling Japeth what to do, I suggest they ponder on the second scenario. But in order for this to work, they need to not put BK in a place where they cannot get a proper player. TNT is flushed with talents. With Nic Belasco in the team, some of their players are dispensable.

But the most important thing here is that someone needs to sort this. No one wants a person to get banned especially with his talent. While Japeth holding out means he is a “diffucult” person to deal with, there is no question about his potential to succeed. But let this be a lesson for officials and players in the near future…

If undecided… don’t commit. And don’t commit on undecided players. Why? So this would be the last time a party “gays” out of a responsibility.

Game over.


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