MATTHEW Aquino is already feeling the positive effects of the entry of Danny Ildefonso as assistant coach of National University in the UAAP.
The 19-year-old Aquino, who will enter his second season with the Bulldogs in UAAP Season 80, gave credit to his mentor Ildefonso for helping him improve his game.
Ildefonso recently returned to his alma mater to be part of the coaching staff of Jamike Jarin, who was signed as new Bulldogs head coach after guiding San Beda to an NCAA crown last year.
Hugely credited for the improved play of two-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo in his early years in the pro ranks, Ildefonso has been tasked to help out NU's big man like Aquino for the UAAP.
Ironically, Ildefonso was a rival of his dad during their days in the pro ranks.
Ildefonso's mentorship is starting to pay off as Aquino recently earned a spot in the Mythical Five when he led NU's Team B in the UCBL preseason tournament.
"Actually, Team B 'yun," said the 6-foot-9 Aquino. "Sinama lang ako doon kasi medyo nawawala 'yung kumpiyansa ko kaya sinama ako sa liga ng Team B. Maganda naman pinakita ko doon."
"Unti-unting bumabalik 'yung game ko, tapos mentor ko rin si Coach Danny. Siya 'yung nag-guide sa akin," he added.
Aquino said having Ildefonso as one of the NU assistant coaches is also like having his father Marlou by his side.
"Malaking tulong talaga si Coach Danny kasi parang parehas sila ni Dad eh. Tapos Pangasinan pa," said Aquino.
More than the moves and skills he's learning from the PBA great, Aquino said he cherishes the knowledge and motivation Ildefonso shares off the court.
"'Yung hard work at puso. Galing kasi sila sa hirap. 'Yung puso lang talaga sa court, 'yung play every game like it's your last. 'Yun talaga 'yung tinuturo niya," said Aquino.
As for the Bulldogs, Aquino, whose team failed to reach the playoff round of the Filoil preseason tournament, said there are still a lot of work to do as they adjust to the system of Jarin.
"Malaking adjustment kasi bago ang coach. Ibang iba 'yung sistema. We are still adjusting," said Aquino.