Danny Ildefonso recalls humble beginnings at NU as Sy-backed Bulldogs reach UAAP Finals
NU cage star Danny Ildefonso is pleased to see the current Bulldogs are getting the support needed to succeed. Jerome Ascano

AS two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso watched National University celebrate at midcourt following an emotional 65-63 semis win over the top seed Ateneo Blue Eagles on Wednesday, memories of his humble beginnings at NU flashed through his mind.

One of the finest big men the UAAP has ever produced, Ildefonso played for the Bulldogs from 1995 to 1997, years when NU was still in the doldrums in the collegiate league.

The 6-foot-5 forward recalled how they considered it a luxury to be treated to a meal at the school’s canteen a day after pulling off a rare victory in the UAAP.

“Siyempre, pag nanalo kami, may nagpapakain na alumni,” Ildefonso shared to Spin.ph on Thursday. “Pero kinabukasan pa yung pakain sa canteen lang ng eskuwelahan, though masaya naman kasi buong team yun.”

Ildefonso that added upon turning pro in 1998 and skipping his final UAAP playing year with NU, he would return during the preseason to the campus in Sampaloc, Manila to bring some basketball shoes for the players and buy them pizza.

“Di na ako nagbibigay ng pera, pero before mag-opening, bumibista ako dun sa practice tapos nagdadala ako ng sapatos saka nagpapa-pizza ako,” said Ildefonso.

Now Ildefonso said he’s just happy to see his alma mater thrive in basketball with the support of SM Prime Holdings big boss Hans Sy.

[See NU back in the UAAP finals after four decades with squeaker over Final Four top seed Ateneo]

“Talagang blessed ang mga players ngayon kasi malaking tulong yung naibibigay nila Mr. Hans Sy at SM sa NU gaya nung bagong gym, pagkain saka mga supplement,” he said.

Ildefonso felt if the Sy family came in as early as their time in the 1990s, the Bulldogs could have won UAAP championships with him and another former PBA star, Lordy Tugade, at the forefront.

“Oo, kung kami may suporta na nun, baka kami di lang nag-Finals, nag-champion pa kami sa UAAP kasama si Lordy,” he said.

With NU’s very first UAAP Finals after a 44-year absence opposite Far Eastern University, Ildefonso is confident that the Bulldogs under coach Eric Altamirano can complete their mission of bringing home the UAAP championship and this time, end the school’s 60-year title drought.

“Sa tinatakbo ng team, malaki ang chance na mag-champion ang NU, at magandang laban iyan,” he said with a smile.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava