LOS ANGELES, California – Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) No. 1 draft pick Japeth Aguilar is still pursuing his dream of making it to the top league in the world, the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The 25-year-old Aguilar was taken with the top pick by Burger King in the 2009 PBA Rookie Draft.
He is currently in the United States and for the past two days, the 6-foot-9 Aguilar has been trying out for an NBA Development League (D-League) team, the Bakersfield Jam, in east Los Angeles.
The Jam is the minor league affiliate for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors.
More than 80 basketball players attended the open try-out, which was then whittled down to the best 20 players on Sunday.
Aguilar was one of the 20 chosen players who also played in a scrimmage. Though his team lost, the Filipino player stood out with 10 points on five-of-nine shooting, while also grabbing four rebounds and blocking five shots.
Coaches in attendance praised Aguilar's performance, with Jam headcoach Will Voigt saying he sees a lot of potential for the former Smart Gilas Pilipinas mainstay.
"He's been playing as a four or a five (power forward or center) in the Philippines, so we'll have to transition him into a three (small forward). It' going to be a process for him," Voigt said.
"But he's shown flashes throughout the weekend that makes you want to see more."
Assistant head coach John Bryant called Aguilar a "very intriguing prospect," but also brought up some issues that has dogged the player since he came out of Western Kentucky University in 2009.
"I think right now he's a little too passive," Bryant said. "He needs to be the man, and mix that with some aggression."
"I want to see him throw an elbow or something. Get out of his shell a little and play loose. I think he'll really be something special," he added.
This is the second time that Aguilar has tried out for the NBA D-League. He first tried out in 2009 but was not picked in the D-League draft.
With his PBA contract having expired, Aguilar is hopeful that he will become the first Filipino to make it to the NBA.
"It was going to be now or never," Aguilar said. "If it's not for me, then at least I tried. I don't want to have any regrets, so I just want to try."
The Bakersfield Jam will not make a roster decision until mid-October. Until then, Aguilar said he is training in the gym everyday to try and improve his game.
Aguilar's agent said they have also scheduled a planned workout for him with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and are trying to get a workout with the Orlando Magic later this week.