DUBAI - Dave Ildefonso will be sitting out a year of basketball in college as he's all set to transfer to the Ateneo Blue Eagles from the National University Bulldogs. In the meantime, he'll play wherever he can as much as he can. When Mighty Sports Philippines head coach Charles Tiu broached the idea of including him into their lineup for the 31st Dubai International Basketball Championship, Ildefonso said yes rather quickly.
"I was telling Juan (Gomez de Liaño) before that I wanted to join Mighty Sports. At first, I was telling it as a joke because I see how much fun they're having while traveling but of course I also wanted to join to improve as a player," Ildefonso said. "It's not everyday that you get to be one the same team as some of the best amateur talent in the country and former NBA players as well."
Tiu, for his part, has also invested in Ildefonso as he made it a point to give him a few minutes in their first two games. He was able to score two points in their first win against the national team of the United Arab Emirates. Ildefonso sat beside another second-generation player in Thirdy Rave before the start of that game as they both marveled at the sight of Fadi El Khatib, the 40-year-old Lebanese legend who was playing as an import for UAE.
Unknown to Ildefonso, El Khatib played against his father a couple of decades back (as first reported by Rappler) "I didn't know he played against my dad before but I've watched him play against our national team. I can't believe he's still that strong at this age," Ildefonso said. "Thankfully, I did not have to guard him because that would have been a problem for me. I was able to drive against him once but I missed the layup."
Ildefonso played even better with a five-point output against Al Ittihad of Aleppo in their second game. He had the second best plus-minus in the game for Mighty Sports Philippines as the team was a plus-10 in the 12 minutes.
"I'm thankful that coach Charles gave me an opportunity. We're happy that the locals also get a chance to play here in Dubai. It doesn't matter if we don't get a lot of minutes, at least we're able to play."
Ildefonso has been enjoying his time playing for Mighty Sports Philippines for the first time. He's often joking around with Beau Belga and he even did Belga's patented shotgun celebration after sinking an important three-point shot against Al Ittihad.
As he moves on to a new chapter in his basketball career, Ildefonso knows that these moments will be his best teacher. While he'll have to press pause on his collegiate basketball career, he knows it will be for the better as he continues to improve as a player.
"Basketball is so much fun," Ildefonso said. "I never thought I'd get the chance to play against an international star that my dad played against before or be in a team with two NBA players in (Andray) Blatche and (Renaldo) Balkman. I'm just to thankful to be a part of this team."