A NEW deal with Mahindra welcomed Mike DiGregorio for the new year.
Following his stellar play in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup, Enforcers management decided to give the deadly rookie guard a contract extension that will last until the 2016-17 season of the PBA.
Mahindra and DiGregorio agreed to the deal three days before the end of 2015, according to his representative Marvin Espiritu.
“He’s very grateful to the management of Mahindra for trusting him. He’s a hungry guy who’s out to prove that he belongs in the league (PBA),” said Espiritu.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Definitely it can’t be a ‘max’ contract because he’s a late pick,” added Espiritu of DiGregorio, nephew of former NBA Rookie of the Year Ernie DiGregorio, who was selected by the Enforcers in the fourth round of the rookie draft as the 35th pick overall.
The 25-year-old DiGregorio was a considered a shoo-in to crack Mahindra’s regular lineup in the offseason after doing good in the team practices, until something went wrong along the way.
“The big bosses of the team came to watch the team play. Unfortunately, ang sama ng laro ni Mike, he struggled,” Espiritu recalled.
Despite the assurances of the coaching staff led by Chito Victolero, management had second thoughts about signing the rookie out of McKendree University to a long-term deal.
He ended up becoming a practice player for the Enforcers, although not for long.
Victolero decided to activate him late in the all-Filipino conference as the Enforcers were in the thick of the hunt for a berth in the playoffs.
“It was up to Mike to grab that opportunity,” said Espiritu.
DiGregorio made sure everybody took notice when he erupted for 19 points – on 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc - while playing against his idol Terrence Romeo, who scored the game-winner in Globalport’s thrilling 118-116 win over Mahindra.
And in the Enforcers final game of the tournament, DiGregorio came through with a career-high 20 points although the team fell short of advancing in the quarterfinals as it lost to Blackwater, 108-99, in their knockout game five days before Christmas.
But even with Mahindra already out of the playoffs, Mahindra’s prized rookie continues working in the gym on his own even during the holiday season.
In Espiritu’s own words, “Mike just wants to get better.”