LOS ANGELES, California – After two days and six hours of workouts, New Orleans Hornets scout Don Sellers said he likes what he sees in Japeth Aguilar, but believes the former PBA top draft pick is not yet ready for the big show.
Sellers, an advanced personnel scout for the Hornets, likes Aguilar’s athleticism, agility and potential, but feels the 6-foot-9 Filipino needs to become more aggressive and develop “toughness” to play in the NBA.
“I think he’s a work in progress. I like some of the skills he brings to the table. Again, I want to reiterate this. He needs to become more of a Westernized player, which you saw today he’s made a commitment in doing,” Sellers said.
During the past two days, Sellers evaluated the 25-year-old Aguilar and other local players at a gym in West Compton.
From high knee drills, lay-ups, to open court three-man weaves, the former Ateneo Blue Eagles and Western Kentucky Hilltopper performed well and showed a lot of promise offensively and defensively.
Sellers often challenged Aguilar to play point guard in order to observe his dribbling skills, and also asked him to display his low-post game to see his aggressiveness.
“When I challenged him, he took the challenge. He didn’t shut down,” Sellers said.
But Sellers also noted that Aguilar is “the type of guy that you can’t yell at. And when he does something good, you let him know.”
The scout brought in NBA champion and former head coach Jim Cleamons to get his thoughts on Aguilar and the other players.
Cleamons, who last year coached in the Chinese Basketball Association, said it was not fair to give a full evaluation on Aguilar just based on one workout, but he did say his first impression of the Filipino player was good.
“He’s still in a very young stage in his growth and development. If he’s willing to be patient with himself, I think that dream that he is hoping for is still very attainable,” Cleamons said.
As for Aguilar, he said he is enjoying the process. He arrived here with a dream, but he knows that he has a long way to go.
After three workouts with NBA teams, Aguilar said he has developed his game and has a better understanding of what he needs to to play at the highest level.
“I need to take away my bad habits. I have to start out aggressively from the beginning,” he said.
Aguilar also addressed the people who have criticized his decision to leave the Philippines.
“They don’t get it,” he said. “I just want to try. Then, if nothing happens, I can always play back in the Philippines.”
Aguilar is now at the most crucial part of the process: waiting for an NBA team’s phone call for an invite to training camp, which starts in October.
Aguilar’s agent said they have nothing scheduled for the player this week, though that can change at any moment.
For now, Aguilar said all he can do is continue what he is doing and work on his game everyday.