Filipino Japeth Aguilar took a big step in his attempt to become the first NBA player from the Philippines when last week, on Friday, Nov. 2, the Santa Cruz Warriors chose the forward in the seventh round of the 2012 Developmental League Draft.
Hailing from the town of Sasmuan, in Pampanga, the 6-foot-9, 210-pound Aguilar made his mark for one season at Ateneo de Manila University then took his talents to Western Kentucky University, a highly-competitive NCAA division one basketball program. After two seasons as a Hilltopper, he returned back to the Philippines, where he became the top pick in the PBA’s 2009 Draft.
Considering his lofty draft status, Aguilar has fought off the label of bust and after a period of intense training with Smart Gilas national team shooting coach, Aguilar is setting his sights on making the permanent jump no other Filipino has been able to do since the league began in 1946.
Aguilar is receiving all kinds of support from the Filipino community, both here in the states and in his homeland.
Aguilar, 25, got looked at by a few professional scouts during US tryouts this past summer but the athletic high-flying talent did not receive a training camp invite.
He did however get the attention of the Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob’s son, Kirk, who is now the GM for the affiliated branch, one of 11 current D-League teams.
The farm team for the Warriors, which was formally located in South Dakota, is trying to establish local ties and develop a fan base with the ability to follow players from Santa Cruz to Oakland.
The team will have to wait until sometime during the Christmas holidays to move into its temporarily new beachfront digs at the 5,000-seat Kaiser Permanente Arena. With 17 total players on its current roster, eight of them from the recent draft, the SC Warriors will have to trim it down to 10 in time for the opening game on Nov. 30. Training camp begins this Friday.
Kirk Lacob and director of player personnel Sammy Gelfand believe they got a real steal in their first-round draft pick, the 13th pick overall – University of Georgia’s Travis Leslie, and who just two weeks ago a late camp was cut by the Los Angeles Clippers.
It has been close to thirty-five years since the Warriors pro franchise drafted UCLA senior Raymond Townsend, a Filipino American from the Bay Area. Townsend made the 1978-79 squad, and with it, was the first NBA basketball player of FilAm heritage.
This Saturday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland the Warriors will hold the first installation of this season’s Filipino Heritage Night group events. Tickets can be purchased online for the special cultural event, which is in its fifth year and will be highlighted by a post-game Q&A session with Black Eyed Peas member apl.de.ap. Parts of the proceeds from the ticket sales benefit a number of local FilAm nonprofits.