Dave Ildefonso made waves when he transferred to Ateneo de Manila University following a stormy season with National University (NU) in Season 82 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
Sideliners saw it coming.
With the Bulldogs giving the boot to his high school coach in Jamike Jarin and father in Danny Ildefonso, everybody anticipated that the 19-year-old Ildefonso would also pack his bags.
But what was surprising was the fact that he left NU for the same school that he left during the recruitment wars two years ago — Ateneo.
Bitterness splashed all over the court.
Sources said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin made a serious run in recruiting the young Ildefonso following a stellar high school career that saw him making it to the UAAP Mythical Five and winning the UAAP juniors title.
But Ildefonso had other plans and joined the Bulldogs.
That’s why in his first meeting against Baldwin and the Blue Eagles, the outspoken American-Kiwi mentor made it known that he wasn’t happy over Ildefonso’s decision, saying that they came up with a strong performance to remind the rising star that he didn’t make the right choice.
“We’ll continue to put performances on the court that hope for all recruits to take note and think that this is the right place to be.”
Ildefonso fired back, saying that he made the right choice.
Although Baldwin later apologized for his bold statement, the damage was done and the cracks in their relationship had already showed up.
But like a son to a father, Ildefonso came running back to Baldwin.
They met shortly after Christmas and the hatchets were buried.
“I talked to coach Tab if they are still interested in me because I wanted to know if I still have a spot in the team or not,” Ildefonso said.
“Actually, I really thought that they have no more interest in me. But I was relieved that even if I left the school two years ago, they still wanted me on the team.”
Ildefonso said Ateneo would always be his home.
“Even if I’m not with them anymore, I still pay a visit, especially my former teachers.”
Ildefonso said the main reason why he decided to rejoin the Blue Eagles was not just because of the exit of Jarin and his father from NU.
He said he wanted to challenge himself and harness his game to become an international player.
“The best move for me is to be able to go to Ateneo and just learn more from coach Tab and the system,” said Ildefonso, who has to redshirt for a year before seeing his first minute as a Blue Eagle.
“Playing in the international stage has always been my dream. I dream big. I am big dreamer. And with coach Tab, at least I get a chance to play in the international level.”
“I just want to play my game and really improve. I want to work on the areas that I feel need improvement.”
But more than the playing in the international arena, Ildefonso returned to Ateneo not just to play basketball, but to gain a second chance and fix his shattered relationship with Baldwin and the school’s community.
His return is more than just basketball.
It’s about forgiveness.
It’s about moving on.
“I just wanted to repay his trust and repay the Ateneo community and all the alumni,” Ildefonso said
“I want to regain their trust. And I will do everything to be accepted again.”