DAVE Ildefonso has read every article and analysis comparing him to fellow rookie CJ Cansino.
With the two playing ahead of their years, it's unsurprising that they are regarded as headliners of this season's rookie batch.
But don't fault Ildefonso if those stories made him all the more motivated when he and Cansino's teams met.
"Di naman sa bitter ako, pero syempre as a player, yung competition laging nandoon. And he does really bring out the best in me," he admitted.
And on Sunday, the 18-year-old forward stepped up to the plate and embraced the challenge, leading National University to a 69-61 victory over University of Santo Tomas to keep his side's Final Four hopes alive in UAAP Season 81.
With the Growling Tigers staging a huge rally to slice an 11-point lead to just one, 57-56 with 5:05 remaining, Ildefonso did much of the heavy lifting for the Bulldogs, uncorking seven of their last 12 points to tow his side to the victory.
"That's my role eh, na dapat I play beyond my years. I can't show that I'm 18 years old. I have to show them that I'm more mature than what is on paper. I have to really attack more para mas maka-create ako at mas makapasa ako sa ibang teammates ko," said Ildefonso, who this early is taking the torch of being NU's undisputed alpha.
Ildefonso finished with 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists, not too shabby of a statline in contrast to Cansino's 8-point, 18-rebound, and 5-assist night.
Despite everything that has been written and will still be written in the future, the son of PBA great Danny Ildefonso resigns to the fact that his career will always be intertwined to that of Cansino's.
"Magaling na player eh, so you have to perform para at least magkalevel kayo or he's just one step above," the NU neophyte said, excited for more duels with his UST counterpart. "He's a great player, and in years to come, sana maglaban pa kami more and we're gonna have mutual improvement sa isa't isa. I look forward to seeing him again."