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Danny Ildefonso vs. Vic Manuel

Danny I making the most of short-term deal
by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – Veteran center Danny Ildefonso doesn’t mind signing a one-conference contract with Meralco.

After all, what he wants is an opportunity to prove he can still play at a high level. If that results in an extension from the Bolts for the rest of the season, it will be a big bonus for the former two-time PBA Most Valuable Player.

“Sabi ko nga nung una maski isang conference lang e,” said Ildefonso yesterday.

“Sa totoo lang, sa ngayon hindi ko iniisip kung ma-extend ako or anything, ang importante ngayon nakakalaro ako. I’m thankful na nabigyan ako ng pagkakataon to prove na kaya ko pa maglaro dito sa PBA,” added Ildefonso, the PBA MVP in 2000 and 2001.

The 6-foot-6 Ildefonso proved his worth as he finished with 14 points in his Meralco debut – his first game in the pro league this season – on 6-of-7 shooting from the field while adding six rebounds, five assists and a steal in 29 minutes in a 92-88 overtime win over Air21 last Saturday in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup.

Ildefonso’s efforts was recognized by the PBA Press Corps as he was named Player of the Week, edging his Meralco teammate Gary David, San Mig Coffee’s Mark Barroca, Talk ’N Text’s Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes, and Rain or Shine rookie Alex Nuyles.

Ildefonso was signed by Meralco following the injury of Kerby Raymundo, who decided not to join the team and instead have knee surgery after he was traded by the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings for JayR Reyes during the off-season.

Aside from Raymundo, the Bolts also dealt with several other injury issues, including the ones suffered by key frontline players Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan last month. At that time, management and the coaching staff were already weighing their options with Ildefonso.

It was Dec. 26 when Ildefonso started to work out with Meralco, and was officially welcomed to the team when he signed a contract last Thursday. He previously played for Petron Blaze, his team the past 15 years.

Ildefonso will face his former team on Jan. 18, taking on his apprentice June Mar Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 center who has credited Ildefonso for helping him improve his basketball skills during his rookie season.

“Siguro magandang game ‘yun. Ang laki na ng naging improvement ni June Mar,” said Ildefonso.

For Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, the arrival of Ildefonso was perfect timing as it came when the Bolts were in need of a push to get back in contention for a playoff berth. At 4-7, the Bolts are in a five-way tie for fifth with Barako Bull, San Mig Coffee, Alaska and Globalport.

“We needed someone who can provide us stability (experience), especially because we have a lot of players hurt,” said Gregorio. “We also needed someone who can help us extricate from a deep hole that we’ve dug ourselves in, someone who makes good decisions to increase our chances of winning.”

“We needed another post presence that can score and make good passes in the post. We needed a post defender who can match-up with Asi (Taulava) and can get rebounds,” added Gregorio.