Danny Ildefonso wishes former protege Fajardo good health: 'Kailangan natin siya sa (Olympic) qualifier'
Danny Ildefonso (middle), protege June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris all smiles during a chance encounter before Gilas practice at the Moro Lorenzo Center inside the Ateneo campus. Jerome Ascano

IT was a brief but delightful encounter between retired great Danny Ildefonso and former protégé June Mar Fajardo on Monday night at the Gilas Pilipinas practice at the Moro Lorenzo gym inside the Ateneo campus.

“Lakay’ was at the venue as his son Shaun Ildefonso was trying out with the Ateneo varsity team.

It just so happened the Blue Eagles’ practice precedes the training of Gilas Pilipinas, giving the former PBA two-time MVP the chance to say hi and have a short chat with the player who he had taken under his wings during their time at San Miguel.

“Masaya nagkita ulit kami,” said the 39-year-old Ildefonso. “Masaya ako para sa kanya at healthy ulit siya.”

An eight-time PBA champion, two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star, Ildefonso guided Fajardo during his freshman season with the Beermen after emerging as the top pick of the 2012 rookie draft.

Their work relationship would later lead to Fajardo duplicating Ildefonso’s feat (2000 and 2001) as back-to-back winner of the MVP trophy in 2014 and 2015.

“Sobrang mabait na bata ito. Hindi mahirap turuan,” he said of Fajardo.

The native of Urdaneta, Pangasinan also stressed the big role the 6-foot-10 Fajardo will play in Gilas’ coming campaign in the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

“Kailangan na kailangan natin siya doon (Olympic qualifier). Kaya sana nga he’ll stay healthy,” Ildefonso said.

 A member of the PBA 40 Greatest Players, Ildefonso retired with Meralco last year after playing in the league for 17 years.

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