Tim Cone defends Japeth Aguilar from bashers following Gilas-Brazil backlash

Gilas coach Tim Cone asked the fans to stop criticizing Japeth Aguilar following Gilas' FIBA OQT semis loss to Brazil. FIBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Japeth Aguilar suddenly became a "hated" man on Saturday night when fans criticized him for some erroneous plays that they thought cost Gilas Pilipinas the win against Brazil in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament semifinals.

Forced to play extended minutes after Kai Sotto was ruled out at the last minute, Aguilar, arguably Gilas' best rim protector, had good tangible numbers with six rebounds and two blocks in nearly 19 minutes of action alongside four points and one assist.

However, it was his two turnovers that the Gilas fans thought were more crucial.

Aguilar first threw a bad pass that ended up with Vitor Benite midway through the second period, eventually leading Georginho De Paula's jumper that sparked Brazil's strong finish in the quarter.

De Paula once again converted another Aguilar bad pass, this time a three-pointer that was part of the game-deciding 14-0 Brazil run to start the third quarter.

As the backlash continued over the weekend, Tim Cone, Aguilar's head coach at Gilas and Ginebra, stepped in to defend him, telling fans to focus on the sacrifice he had to make just to join Gilas.

According to Cone, Aguilar, citing family matters, initially hesitated to join Gilas for the OQT but eventually said yes after AJ Edu was ruled out.

"I begged Japeth to join us in Latvia. He wanted to let the young guys do it and spend more time with his wife and new baby. Kept begging him. When AJ Edu went down, he finally relented after more begging. He led us, he was our team captain. His sacrifice for his country was total," Cone said on X early Tuesday.

Depending on how healthy Sotto, Edu, and even Jamie Malonzo would be down the road, the FIBA OQT could well likely be the last hurrah for the 37-year-old Aguilar with Gilas.

While it was not the end he wanted, Aguilar, as Cone implied, still deserves some respect.

Gilas is expected to arrive back home at around midnight of Wednesday. 

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno