IT is no coincidence that Vic Manuel's game took off the moment Danny Ildefonso joined the Alaska coaching staff.
Apparently, anything – or anyone – Ildefonso touches these days turns into gold. First it was San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo, a former understudy and now a four-time MVP. Now it's Manuel.
So far, the 31-year old banger is putting up unbelievable averages of 24.8 points on 60-percent shooting to lead all locals in scoring on the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
Manuel is so hot these days he has reset his career high four times over his last seven games and barely missed out on a place in the top five of the scoring list which, of course, is dominated by imports.
Coach Alex Compton is 100 percent certain that Manuel’s rise can be attributed to Ildefonso's guidance.
“He’s been spending a lot of time with one of the best post players in the history of the PBA. I told Vic two or three years ago, 'Isipin mo career mo, sino dapat idol mo, maging Danny I ka, yung sipag,'” said Compton.
“Life happens and I had a chance to hire Danny I and we jumped at it right away. Danny is one of the greats, some of the greats aren’t great teachers, but Danny is a work ethic and technique guy,” he added.
That good fortune isn't lost on Manuel, who is grateful to have a two-time MVP and one of the best post players ever to mentor him day in and day out during practices.
“Sobrang laking bagay ni coach Danny. Dami kong natutunan sa kanya, lalo na sa post, talagang kung meron na akong post move dati, talagang nadagdagan pa e," said the former PSBA standout after scoring a career-best 35 points in the Aces' 103-99 win over Magnolia on Sunday night.
"Natututo na rin ako mag-isip kung paano yung igagalaw ko. Tinututukan niya ako, lagi niya ako sinasabihan,” Manuel added.
“Lagi niyang nire-remind sa akin. Nakikinig naman talaga ako sa kanya kasi malaking bagay yung coach Danny sa team namin. Lalo na yung dumating siya, mas umangat pa yung laro ko,” he added.
With Ildefonso in his corner, Manuel said he has been doing extra work, particularly with his jumpers.
“Ine-extra ako ni coach Danny sa shooting e, sa perimeter, 70 shots after the practice. three points, 30 shots, lahat made. Nakakapagod talaga pero masasabi ko talagang malaking bagay yun, nakakatulong sa akin,” said Manuel.
“Hindi lang ako sa post ngayon, talagang may face up na ako tapos pumapasok yung mga perimeter. Malaking bagay sa akin yun,” he added.
Ildefonso refused to take full credit for Manuel's off-the-charts improvement.
“Hindi ko naman mapapagawa yung mga pinagagawa ko sa kanya kung walang cooperation, yung extra work. Malaking bagay yun before and after practice, nagsu-shooting kami,” said Ildefonso.
“Kung ano yung usual na ginagawa niya, yun ang ginagawa namin, nagpo-post moves. Ginagawa ko lang yung kung anong mafi-feel niya sa laro, kasi ako yung bumabantay sa kanila lahat, so alam ko yung (tendencies), ano nila. Pasalamat lang ako kasi yung system, para sa bigs namin,” he added.
With Manuel now back at full strength and with Ildefonso by the side, the 6-4 forward is poised to join the league's elite players.
That won't be a surprise for Ildefonso.
“Nabuo niya yung kumpyansa niya. As a player important 'yun e. Inayos niya yung mga personal stuff na kailangang ayusin so naging magaan sa kanya. Masipag siya. Ang sikreto talaga yung extra work e. Kung ano yung sabihin mo kay Vic yun, ang ginagawa niya,” Ildefonso said.
That’s why he’s thankful to have this opportunity to help out the next generation.
“Yan lang naman ang dream ko, di ko naman dream yung maging head coach talaga. Gusto ko lang mai-share yung experience ko before and makatulong sa kapwa ko player, hindi lang naman sa paglalaro, pati outside the court."