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Ildefonso shines bright through the shadows for the Philippines
NONTHABURI (FIBA U18 Asian Championship) - You’ve got to make a name for yourself.
These are words of advice from Sean Dave Ildefonso’s father. Words that have stuck for the longest of time.
That’s a tall to task to ask from the sharpshooter of the Philippine National Team playing in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship. Ildefonso plays alongside three highly regarded players on the team; teenage prodigy Kai Sotto, NCAA D1 commit AJ Edu, and Rome-based point guard Dalph Panopio. Those three raked up the headlines of news heading into Nonthaburi, Thailand.
But when the games started, it was Ildefonso who shined the brightest; and made a name for himself. In their opening game against Lebanon, Ildefonso scorched the defense for 11 points in the first quarter and finished with 19 to lead the team in scoring.
It felt like Ildefonso had something to prove, but it was just his hunger for being the best he can for the team.
“I don’t really need to prove anything because I think [AJ and Kai] really deserved the headlines they were getting,” Ildefonso said. “All I wanted to do was step up for our team because I’m the team captain. I wanted to lead my team and show them what’s right and lead them to the victory.”
Of course, Ildefonso would know what’s right and how to lead the team. His selection as the team captain comes as no surprise, especially with the experience he has. The 6’0” sniper was already a part of the FIBA U16 Asian Championship team in 2015 and was a key player with an average of 7.6 points and 5.9 rebounds.
“The difference is you have a much higher percentage of college players in U18 than in the U16 so you have more mature competition who are bigger and stronger,” Ildefonso adds. “You have to have win with wits and stick with the system.”
There are times when it gets tough for Sean to “make a name for himself” especially when he shares his last name with one of the Philippines greatest basketball players, his father, Danny Ildefonso,
Danny, or also fondly known as “Danny I” is considered a legend in the Philippines with national team stints in the early 2000's and a lengthy career in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) winning multiple championships and MVP awards. He has been in attendance at the FIBA U18 Asian Championship in Thailand to watch his son play.
As any father would, Danny I doesn’t hold back from sharing his advice and critiquing his son’s play.
“He really nitpicks every play,” Sean Ildefonso says of how he and father interact after games. “[Things] I have to get better at. Skills I have to improve. Every error, Every play. Which move is the better option. Did I do something right or did I do something wrong?”
“It’s really a big help but sometimes it gets – you know – maybe a bit annoying.” The younger Ildefonso adds with a grin and a laugh.
“But he’s my dad and it’s really great to have him teach me especially with his background in basketball,” he quickly adds.
“I think I’m in good hands.”
During every game that the Philippines plays here in Thailand, you can see Danny Ildefonso watching and mentally dissecting any suggestion he might have for Sean. Though he might get on his son’s nerves from time to time, Danny Ildefonso is more than supportive of his son’s path in basketball even though their paths so far might not exactly be similar. In complete contrast with Sean’s shooting and penetrating style of play from the wing, Danny was a prototype big man in his heyday.
“From the start, I wanted him to play the guard position because I told him that if you don’t get taller, at least you still have a chance to play at a high level,” Danny said. “But if you have the chance to get taller, if God gives you good height, it's easier to teach you to play inside later.”
For the elder Ildefonso, it doesn’t matter how his son plays or what position he plays as long as he gives it his all every time.
“I’m always telling him that every time he has a chance to go in, just give it his best on defense and offense,” says Danny. “Enjoy the game because this is a great opportunity to increase and improve his confidence in playing basketball.”
Sean Ildefonso has been enjoying plenty of basketball at the FIBA U18 Asian Championship so far along with his team. He’s averaging 11.3 points and 4.0 rebounds on 30.8% three-pointing shooting the Semifinalists. As a part of the historic Youth National Team squad that will make the FIBA U19 World Championship – the first time in 40 years – it’s safe to say that Sean is no longer project as just the son of a basketball legend or just another guy on the team.
“’You’ve got to make a name for yourself,’” Sean Ildefonso repeats the words of advice from his father that he takes to heart.