‘Nakakataba ng Puso’: Dave Ildefonso Goes Full Circle With PBA Draft Entry

Following a stint in Korea, Dave Ildefonso now seeks to prove his worth back home as he joins a loaded PBA Draft Class.

After two years in Korea, Dave Ildefonso is headed home to try his luck in the PBA, joining a loaded draft class that includes a number of his UAAP peers. 

But more than being another elite prospect, Dave’s entry also serves as a full circle moment of sorts. The son of PBA legend Danny Ildefonso, Dave is going from the youngster who grew up around the league, to possibly being one of its future stars. 

“In the grand scheme of things, syempre nakakataba ng puso. Kasi syempre, ‘yun yung league na kung saan naglaroyung tatay ko dati, kung saan ako nanonood, where I grew up watching him and idolizing him,” Dave told The GAME in an exclusive interview.

Dave, though, openly admits how his overseas fortunes factored into the decision. As the draft application deadline approached, Dave admitted that he waited for a new offer from an overseas team after his two-year contract with the Suwon KT Sonicboom had ended. After all, playing abroad had been Dave’s dream since his time as an Ateneo Blue Eaglet. 

“I was waiting for the deadline. Wala namang nag-approach sakin na international. So, you know, if I have no options or offers in option A, dun ako sa option B. So, which is PBA and which is PBA Draft,” he explained. 

But at the same time, Dave revealed that he’s always had plans to play for the PBA down the line. Despite his dream of playing internationally, it’s not like Dave could spend the rest of his life away from home either. 

“I always want to settle down here in the Philippines and try to, you know, play in front of the Filipino fans and play with Filipinos as well,” he said. 

Now that he’s PBA-bound, Dave vows to bring the resiliency he’s developed in Korea, as well as his coachability. While he always remained coachable with Sonicboom, language barriers proved to challenge that effort, as Dave struggled to have “one line of communication” with his coaches. 

“I’m really just looking forward to being able to learn more talaga with the Filipino coaches and everything. Filipino teammates, veterans, and everything like that. And, you know, I’m pretty sure soon enough, it’ll happen.” 

But as Dave Ildefonso enters his next chapter, rest assured there are no hard feelings toward Suwon KT. He acknowledges that on top of language barriers, the team was too stacked at the wings and buried him in their depth chart. 

In fact, Dave is actually supportive of Suwon KT’s latest signing that replaced him with former Gilas Boys guard Dalph Panopio. 

“They [Suwon KT]  just lost a starting point guard…And, I think he [Dalph] can really plug that hole, kasi Dalph was a true point guard. And..ang dami niyang exposure abroad. And especially the US, sa [NCAA],” Dave explained. 

“And I think that’s a better signing for them compared to the signing that they did [with me].” 

Looking forward 

While the homecoming came earlier than expected, that’s not to say that Dave Ildefonso is any less excited to enter the PBA. In his view, the league is a “collective” of homegrown Pinoy talent, even with players now getting overseas offers. 

Of course, being an Ildefonso instantly gives Dave a proverbial chip on his shoulder. “In terms of legacy, I hope to at least matapatan ko man lang ‘yung mga nagawa ni tatay [Danny I]. At least, you know, not too far off.” 

Dave Ildefonso in the PBA hopes to meet his kuya Shaun
(Photo Credit: UAAP Season 84 Media Team)

If he’d have it his way, Dave hopes to join two teams: first is the Converge FiberXers, where tatay Danny is an assistant, while his cousin and Ateneo teammate BJ Andrade is currently on the roster.

A number of Ateneans are also on Converge, such as Big Mike Nieto and Pat Maagdenberg aside from Andrade. “And, I can see the culture that they’re [building], the team that they’re trying to build. And, I think I can really help out there.” 

Second is the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, where kuya Shaun currently plays. 

“And, I don’t know, other than that, tignan lang natin. Honestly, whoever picks me, syempre, my goal isn’t gonna change so I’m gonna work hard, try to contribute, and try to be the best I can be,” he added. 

As a competitor, the 24-year-old also has a separate bucket list. Right off the bat, Dave Ildefonso hopes to face the PBA’s elite, namely the San Miguel Beermen, defending champs Meralco Bolts, Barangay Ginebra, and even the Talk n Text Tropang Giga. 

Aside from being rich in talent, Dave noted these squads command the biggest crowds. “So syempre, gusto ko naman makaharap ‘yung malalakas na team in front of a big crowd and makapag-perform din in front of the crowd.” 

With a playful tone, Dave mentioned June Mar Fajardo as somebody he hopes to defend despite it being unlikely. Outside JMF, Dave also hopes to face kuya Shaun and cousin BJ if he won’t be drafted to their respective clubs. 

Then there’s this ball-handling wizard too for Dave: “Si Terrence Romeo, kasi lagi ko nakikita. Gusto ko malaman kung kaya ko depensahan ‘yon. ‘Yun lang naman, curious lang.” 

Within the draft class, Dave looks forward to playing against the “number one pick”, as well as succeeding “top picks” within his draft class. In relation to this, Dave also had praises for this year’s class, which he believes is “super deep”, and will “help the PBA a lot”. 

“I mean, every draft pick that you can get right now would really…can make an immediate impact sa rookie year pa lang nila. So, I think it’s a good, this draft class can be good for the PBA in the bigger picture.” 

On Strong Group 

Alongside aspirants Calean Tiongson and RJ Abarrientos, Dave will be playing for Strong Group in their Jones Cup campaign. Here, he’ll be reunited with Coach Charles Tiu, who he worked with for Batang Gilas, and the Dubai Basketball Championship in 2020. 

He’ll also be with former Ateneo teammates Geo Chiu and Ange Kouame who he played with for two seasons. For Dave, this ensures fluidity should they share the court together in Taipei. 

We know each other and how we play and what we bring to the table. So with that in mind, syempre, while you’re going up against the best teams of the other countries. Syempre, malaking factor din yun if you have that and, you know, we know how to play naman eh,” said Dave, who also credited Tab Baldwin’s coaching as a key factor. 

Before joining the PBA, Dave will share the floor with Ateneo teammates such as Ange Kouame and Geo Chiu
(Photo Credit: Strong Group Athletics on Facebook)

There’s also Strong Group’s two imports in Fil-Am DJ Fenner, and big man Tajuan Agee. Besides being “great players”, Dave shared they know how to get along, and don’t demand the “star treatment” at all. 

“They’re really down to earth and, you know, you can see it in practice na they try to lift the locals up and each other up so you don’t, ‘di naman sila nagagalit or whatever. And, rightfully so naman. So, I think we have a great group of guys right now.”

Banner Image courtesy of the UAAP Season 84 Media Team.

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