Former practice player Mike DiGregorio earns two-year contract extension with Blackwater
Mike DiGregorio now leads the Elite locals in scoring with 15.8 points in the Governors' Cup. Jaime Campos

MIKE DiGregorio’s hard work in the gym that has translated into a splendid showing on the court bore fruit as he has recently signed a two-year contract extension with Blackwater.

“It feels really good,” the sophomore shooting guard said in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Thursday. “It shows that all my hard work, my sacrifice, my dedication to trying to be the best basketball player I can be paid off.”

“I’m very thankful to Blackwater management, the coaches for believing in me and trusting me, and rewarding me with the contract,” he added.

Not bad for someone who was taken in the fourth round of the rookie draft and started out as a practice player for the Kia franchise, which surprisingly dropped him at the end of this season's Philippine Cup at the free-agent market where the Elite found a gem.

“It’s just a message to everyone to keep working hard, keep believing in yourself,” DiGregorio said. “I never looked at myself as a practice player. That’s what outsiders looked at me as. When I was in high school and college, I’ve always played extremely well. It’s just that when I got here, no one knew who I was. They viewed me as a practice player.”

“I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always worked extremely hard before or after practice, or outside of practice, so I think it’s just a testament to staying committed, being mentally focused, and hard work,” the NCAA Division II side McKendree University product added.

DiGregorio insisted he has no “ill will” toward the Kia franchise for not recognizing his talents.

“Maybe they didn’t know or didn’t see me enough, so I had to prove myself every single day at practice that I was more than what they initially thought I was,” the 6-foot-1 guard said.

“Even when I came here at Blackwater, nothing was guaranteed. No one was saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to start, you’re going to play this amount of minutes,’” he added. “I had to come in and prove my worth and show what I can do.”

Putting in the work, DiGregorio now leads the Elite locals in scoring with 15.8 points on 47-percent shooting, spiked by 2.4 three-point conversions, along with 3.5 boards, and 1.1 assists against 2.8 turnovers in eight games this Governors’ Cup as he has enjoyed the freedom under coach Leo Isaac.

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“Absolutely,” the Filipino-Italian cager said. “It’s a freedom, though, that was earned. Like I said, when I got here, it wasn’t like they just handed me the keys and do whatever you want. You have to earn that trust and that freedom.”

“(And now) I enjoy it a lot more,” he added. “It definitely allows me to show more facets of my game, and obviously your confidence raises when you have more freedom, so it’s helped me a lot.”

Still, the 26-year-old cager is well aware he has plenty to work on.

“Everything. I think I can work on everything,” DiGregorio insisted. “I don’t think I’ve perfected any part of the game. That’s the kind of mindset I feel like you should have always that you can always be better – even at the things you’re great at.

“I can get better at every facet – shooting, passing, defending, finishing at the rim – and that’s what’s exciting for me, because, yes, I’m playing at a very high level now, and I feel like I still have more room to grow,” he added. “So the two-year contract, over those two years, I’ll keep continuing to get better.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos