Ildefonso recounts mentoring Fajardo, explains move to Meralco and retirement

Ildefonso recounts mentoring Fajardo, explains move to Meralco and retirement
June Mar Fajardo learned from Danny Ildefonso during their time together with the San Miguel franchise before the latter moved to the Meralco Bolts. PBA Image/Nuki Sabio

Thanks to a little help from Danny Ildefonso, June Mar Fajardo may go down as arguably the most dominant post presence in PBA history.

In an episode of PBA Kamustahan on Saturday, Ildefonso bared the first time he nudged the University of Cebu standout to utilize his natural advantages and make a living under the basket.

“Bago siya pumunta sa Manila before, may tune-up kami ng San Miguel, nagpunta kami sa Cebu lahat. Kalaban namin si June Mar. Doon pa lang, tinuturuan ko na si June Mar kasi pag bumababa siya ‘nun, malayo niya tinatanggap ‘yung bola, sa gitna ng three-points at sa shaded lane,” he said.

“Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Hindi ka yayaman diyan dahil 6’9, 6’10 ka. Alam mo kung saan ang pera? Doon sa ilalim ng goal. Doon mo kunin. P150,000 lang suweldo mo dito’, sabi ko sa kanya. ‘Ang maximum P500,000, doon oh,'” he laughed. “‘Ganun ba kuya?’ Sabi ko, ‘Oo. Bakit ka ba naglalaro ng basketball?’ ‘Para matulungan ang pamilya ko, kuya.’ ‘O, ‘yun pala eh, doon ka.'”

Fajardo in 2012 eventually linked up with Ildefonso, who served as the former’s mentor until his departure as the franchise’s pillar a year later.

Ildefonso described Fajardo, who now holds the distinction of having the most MVPs in league history after winning his sixth straight last season, as a receptive student who made teaching an easy job.

“Si June Mar kasi, napakasarap turuan unlike ibang players. Talagang open siya, gusto niya talagang matuto,” said Ildefonso.

“Sa akin naman, ang pagiging magaling na player wala naman sa coach. Hindi ako naniniwala. Nasa tao pa rin na tinuturuan mo. Lahat naman, kahit naglalaro sa inter-barangay ang players, kaya naman eh. Pero nasa tinuturuan ‘yan, kung naniniwala ba siya sa ‘yo or gusto niyang gumaling or ano man. Kaya ‘di ako nahirapan kay June Mar.”

The duo’s partnership could have continued if Ildefonso stayed with the Beermen instead of leaving for Meralco. But the desire to keep playing, as well as a reunion with coach Jong Uichico — whom he won six titles in San Miguel with — was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.

“May offer din s a’kin ‘yung San Miguel na gawin nila akong mentor ni June Mar at ‘di na ko maglalaro,” he shared. “Kaya ako lumipat sa Meralco kasi gusto ko pa talaga maglaro. Tsaka syempre, very close ako kay Coach Jong. Without Coach Jong at tsaka coach Ron Jacobs naman, hindi ako magiging Danny Ildefonso.”

Tumawag si Coach Jong sa’kin. ‘Danny I, ano bang plano mo?’ Sinabi ko sitwasyon ko ngayon. Pero deep inside in my heart, gusto ko pa talaga maglaro ng basketball. Syempre 35 years old, kahit sino naman sa atin dito ‘nung 35 gustong-gusto pa maglaro at nakakaya pa. At tsaka, ‘yun na ‘yung edad na ang dali na lang ng basketball eh,” he added.

The two-time MVP, however, didn’t play much and was relegated to a bench role before an epiphany came one day.

“Nung hindi ako masyado nagagamit sa Meralco, nasa likod ako ng bench kapag nagha-huddle sila, so tumitingin ako sa mga fans. Parang nakatingin sila sa’kin. Hindi naman ‘yun lagi ang nakikita ko kapag naglalaro ako sa San Miguel. Tinitingnan nila ako at ako ‘yung nahihiya. Sabi ko baka ito na siguro ‘yung sign na kailangan ko nang magpahinga at tumigil sa paglalaro ng basketball,” he said.

“Ako naman, gusto lang talaga maglaro ng basketball eh, pero ‘di ako sanay na hindi ako nagagamit. So siguro kaysa naman magtatampo pa ako or ano pa kasi ‘di ko naman kaya kontrolin o ipagpilitan ‘yung sarili ko o kaysa magdamdam ako, tanggapin ko na lang,” Ildefonso added.

 

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