MANILA, Philippines – Veteran big man Danny Ildefonso played 29 minutes in his first game for the Meralco Bolts, something that surprised and gratified the two-time PBA Most Valuable Player.
After waiting for two months to be signed into a PBA roster, Ildefonso was immediately thrown into action after practicing just four days with his new team.
Against Air21 Express, Ildefonso tallied 14 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Bolts won, 92-88, in overtime.
“29 minutes? Parang ‘yung 2000 season na playing time ko ‘yun ah,” Ildefonso told PBA.ph, referring to his first MVP season.
“Nagulat ako, kasi akala ko, konti lang ‘yung minutes na lalaruin ko,” he admitted. “Sa practice, di ko pa masyado kabisado ‘yung plays, kaya minsan nanghuhula ako. Hindi ko expected na ganoon ang lalaruin ko at ganoon ang magiging playing time ko.”
Ildefonso said he could only thank God for his performance and for the victory, especially after Air21 forced overtime.
“Pinakaba pa kami. Pinahirapan pa talaga kami,” he said. “Pero answered prayer ito, kasi nagdadasal talaga ako during the game na ibigay na sa amin. Ang ganda na ng laro namin eh, na ituloy na ‘yung biyaya sa akin.”
Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio and assistant coach Jong Uichico heaped praises on Ildefonso after the game.
“It’s just an incredible feeling that the guy who probably was left out at the start of the season was the one who helped us tremendously tonight, and that’s Danny Ildefonso,” Gregorio said.
Uichico, who coached Ildefonso back when both were with the San Miguel franchise, could not be happier for the veteran.
“Maganday ‘yung pinakita niya,” Uichico said. “He makes the game and the team more efficient. He makes the right decisions in the end game. Importante ‘yun sa isang team, na merong ganoon in the closing minutes and for the whole game.”
Uichico admitted that Ildefonso “played more minutes than what we intended to,” but added that the veteran is still perfectly capable of playing extended minutes.
“Maalaga naman siya sa katawan, and he’s very disciplined kaya his age doesn’t affect his play too much,” Uichico said of the 38-year-old Ildefonso.