Danny Ildefonso recalls the origins of his mentorship of June Mar Fajardo

It’s no secret how integral former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Danny Ildefonso was to the development of now-six-time MVP winner and Cebuano giant June Mar Fajardo.

Teammates on the San Miguel Beermen from 2011-2013, Ildefonso placed the young Fajardo under his wing and helped him blossom into the most dominant basketball force in the league today.

However, unbeknownst to many, the mentorship actually began long before Ildefonso and Fajardo became teammates, but rather, four years earlier, when the two faced off in a charity ballgame here in Cebu.

Called the “Triple Threat Charity Game,” the event was held on September 2, 2007 at the Cebu Coliseum and it involved Ildefonso and the rest of the Beermen taking an all-star squad composed of the very best players from the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi).

Organized by then-Beermen wingman Dondon Hontiveros, the charity event sought to help raise funds for the scholarships of less-fortunate students.

In the recent episode of the PBA Kamustahan, Ildefonso revealed that he started giving the 6-foot-10 big man some lessons then.

Ildefonso recalled asking the shy Fajardo what his reasons were for playing basketball. The native of Pinamungahan gamely answered that he wanted to help his family out. Ildefonso then bluntly retorted to Fajardo that the way he could do that is by playing close to the basket.

"Doon pa lang tinuturuan ko na si June Mar. Kasi pag bumababa siya, ang layo nang tanggap niya sa bola, parang nasa three-point area, hindi sa shaded lane. Sabi ko sa kanya hindi ka yayaman diyan, 6’9 o 6’10 ka eh (I started teaching June Mar back then. Every time he would get the ball, it would be way out at the three-point area and not in the shaded lane. I told him you’re not going to get rich that way. You’re 6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10!)," Ildefonso shared.

"Alam mo kung nasaan ang pera? Nandoon sa shaded lane. P150,000 lang sweldo mo dito, doon P500,000, maximum (You want to know where the money is? It’s in the shaded lane! Out on the perimeter, you’re only going to make P150,000. In the shaded lane, you’re going to make P500,000!)," he added.

As helpful as his mentorship proved to be, Ildefonso deflected credit back to Fajardo, who he said was a willing student, who absorbed both criticism and lessons like a sponge.

"Napakasarap turuan ni June Mar, unlike other players. Siya talagang open na gustong matuto (It was such a treat to teach June Mar compared to other players. He was open to being taught.)," said Ildefonso.

“Sa akin naman, ang pagiging magaling na player, wala naman sa coach eh. Nasa tao pa rin na tinuturuan mo. Lahat naman, kahit naglalaro sa inter-barangay, kaya naman eh. Pero nasa tinuturuan mo ‘yun eh, kung naniniwala ba siya sa 'yo at gusto niyang gumaling. Kaya hindi ako nahirapan kay June Mar (In my opinion, being a good player does not lie with the coach. It’s in the player himself. Everybody can be great, even those that play in the inter-barangay leagues. But it’s really in the player if he believes in his capability to be good. That’s why I didn’t have a hard time teaching June Mar),” he added. (JNP)