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Japeth’s road ahead

WITH Japeth Aguilar drafted into the D-League of the National Basketball Association (NBA), a lot of attention is being heaped on this aspect of the NBA organization. The D-League, of course, is the NBA’s Developmental League that is like a parallel universe of the NBA’s active team rosters. In fact, NBA teams have their corresponding D-League affiliations, with some of the teams directly owned and supervised by the NBA team, like the Maine Red Claws, the D-League counterpart of the Boston Celtics.

I guess it would be fair to call the D-League as a sort of a farm team, where all the young and maybe not so young, promising players have their day in the sun in their own solar system. In the process they get, er, developed. And when they’re ripe and ready many get out of their orbit and are flung into the bigger universe traversed by the NBA teams.

D-League players don’t have contracts with the teams that choose them. They sign up with the League itself. The NBA D-League Draft happens every season and is a happy hunting ground for NBA teams to build their rosters. The eight-round draft follows a “serpentine” format where a team that selects first in Round 1 will be the last to select in Round 2, and another team that selects last in Round 1, gets to pick first in Round 2, and so on and so forth.

This year’s NBDL draft is interesting because first, a first Filipino basketball player has been picked up by a D-League team, meaning it’s the closest step ever that a full-blooded Pinoy has taken toward a possible NBA career. Although the field is wide open and so many variables and occurrences will come to play, at least our manok, Japeth Aguilar, has one foot in the door of this very big hall of NBA hopefuls.

Second, there are familiar names in the draft—chips off the old block, so to speak, like Glen Rice Jr. and Ralph Sampson III. But the top draft pick was JaJuan Johnson, last with the Boston Celtics before the C’s began adding on the pieces that are now seen on the parquet floor.

An NBA release reports that “The Fort Wayne Mad Ants selected JaJuan Johnson [6-foot-10, 220, Purdue] with the first overall pick of the 2012 NBA Development League Draft Live via Cisco WebEx on Friday Night.  The Sioux Falls Skyforce drafted Andrew Goudelock [6-3, 200, Charleston] with the draft’s second overall pick, and the Idaho Stampede chose Justin Harper [6-9, 225, Richmond] with the third overall selection. Johnson is a former first-round NBA Draft selection by the then-New Jersey Nets [27th overall, 2011] who was traded to the Boston Celtics prior to the 2011-12 NBA season. 

“In 36 games for the Celtics last season, Johnson averaged 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds.  A four-year contributor and two-year starter at Purdue, Johnson was named All-Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2011.” 

“Other notable first-round selections include Christian Eyenga [6-5, 210, Congo], the former Cleveland Cavalier and Los Angeles Laker who was selected by the Texas Legends with the eighth overall; Travis Leslie [6-4, 205, Georgia], who was selected 13th overall by the Santa Cruz Warriors and was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2011-12 NBA season; and Jack McClinton, a 2009 NBA draft selection by the San Antonio Spurs and the 12th overall selection by the Erie BayHawks on Friday night. “

Japeth was drafted on the seventh round by the Santa Cruz Warriors, which is affiliated with the Golden State Warriors. According to insiders, Japeth is still an unpolished diamond with lots of things to prove and moves to show. Working for him is his ability to rebound, run the floor and to finish, topped with a much-improved basketball IQ, thanks to his Gilas and Philippine Basketball Association stints. But he needs “a little more seasoning, more coaching and training,” says Hernando Planells, who works for Duke Basketball and is a D-League coach.  

Complete rosters for each of the 16 2012-13 NBA D-League teams will be comprised of the players drafted on Friday, along with returning, affiliated and local tryout players, according to the NBA. Rosters will be reduced from 17 players to opening-day 10-man rosters by November 21 in anticipation of the November 22 tip-off of the D-League’s 12th season.  

Teams are expected to cut three to six players in the first round. If Japeth survives, he will continue to practice and get to play in a pre-season game.

These next few days are really going to be important for Japeth. He should be confident and tough enough to handle all the challenges, including all the traveling, and come up with plusses under the coaches’ very, very tight scrutiny. He has to be smart and communicate a lot, not just with teammates but with his coaches as well.

In short, this is going to be Japeth Aguilar’s moment. All Filipino eyes are on him as he makes another attempt at bringing this basketball-loving nation closer to playing the global game with a compatriot sitting on a big-time bench.

The NBA D-League, which was founded in 2001, is a proven developer of talent. At least 27 percent of players in the NBA at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season boasted of D-League experience.






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