AFTER 14 years in the PBA, most of them with Olsen Racela by his side, Danny Ildefonso trusts his new coach at Petron well enough to accept whatever plans his former teammate has for him.
The 6-5 Ildefonso, San Miguel's top rookie pick in 1998 who played with Olsen in most of the Beermen teams that won seven PBA championships from 1999 to 2010, has embraced an off-the-bench role given him by his new coach, even if it would mean less minutes on the floor.
Under the new role defined for him by Racela and coaching consultant Rajko Toroman, the most senior player of Petron, reduced to an off-the-bench role with the arrival of top rookie pick June Mar Fajardo, will be some sort of a 'stabilizer' when things aren't going well on the floor for the Boosters.
“Maganda ang plan nila coach Olsen at coach Rajko sa akin. Kasi 'pag may problema sa loob, ako yung pang-stabilize ng team. So ibig sabihin, kapag di gaano maganda ang execution ng plays, ako yung ipapasok para maturuan yung mga bata na i-execute ng mabuti,” Ildefonso told Spin.ph.
Looking at the bright side, the Urdaneta, Pangasinan native said the new role may help prolong a career that has seen him log maximum minutes from the time he starred for the National University Bulldogs in college down to a pro career embellished with successive MVP trophies from 2000.
“At least, di ako gaanong bugbog sa laro, mas tatagal ako sa liga if ever. Siyempre, ang goal ko naman na is maka-tulong pa sa Petron na mag-champion. And if blessed pa at kaya pa naman ng katawan ko, gusto ko pa rin naman maglaro," said Ildefonso.
His current contract with the Boosters expires at the end of the 2013 season, and he is using the coming campaign as a gauge on how far his banged-up body can still go.
“Siyempre may mga sumasakit na rin kasi sa paa ko tuwing tumatakbo ako or tuwing practice. Pero, depende pa iyan sa magiging takbo ng laro ko this coming season,” explained Ildefonso, who averaged 8.3 points, six rebounds and 2.4 assists in 23.9 minutes the past season.
"Pero kung di na ako bibigyan ng kontrata, okay din lang, at least magre-retiro ako na champion pa rin."
Even if he exits soon, Ildefonso is also confident he will be leaving the center position at Petron in good hands, insisting that the 6-9 Fajardo has what it takes to be the next big star in the pro league.
“Madalas kami mag-usap ni June Mar. Magaling siya na bata at gusto ko yung attitude niya. Wala siyang kayabang-yabang sa katawan. Naniniwala ako magiging best big man ng PBA iyan,” said Ildefonso of the Cebuano rookie.