LEGEND. Former pro basketball player Danny Ildefonso speaks at a basketball league in his home province of Pangasinan in this undated photo. Ildefonso's foundation is currently recruiting young Pangasinenses who will be trained to become future basketball superstars. (Photo courtesy of Danny Ildefonso Facebook)

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – The Samahang Danny Ildefonso Foundation Inc. (SDIFI) is scouting a new breed of Pangasinense basketball players who will be trained to become future superstars in the court just like its founder.

Ildefonso, a homegrown Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) legend who is a native of Urdaneta City, personally promotes the advocacies of his namesake foundation for the sport he loves most.

In an interview on Monday, he said his foundation aims to help children aged 15 years and below and who have great potential in basketball.

“This is my ministry, para ma-share kung ano ang ginawa ni God sa basketball career ko. Para sa akin naman, di mo madadala ‘yung pera. Mas gusto ko pagdating ng panahon, may magpapasalamat sa akin na naging successful sila, nakapag-PBA or nakatapos sa pag-aaral through my foundation (This is my ministry, to share what God had done for me through my basketball career. For me, I cannot bring money to the afterlife. What I want someday is that they will thank me because they have become successful and be part of the PBA, or they were able to finish their studies through my foundation),” he said.

More than 300 young Pangasinenses participated in their first SDIFI tryout on May 12.

“Those who have potential will qualify. My dream, is to see the next Danny Ildefonso, Marlou Aquino, Noli Locsin, among others. There is also Renz Abando, now playing in Korea,” he said.

Once selected, they will be housed in Urdaneta City but will still continue their studies.

“Ang ituturo namin doon ay ministry o salita ng Panginoon. Second ay discipline, basketball, pero number one pa rin ‘yung pag-aaral nila (We will teach them ministry or the Word of God, second is discipline, basketball, but the number one priority should be their studies),” he said.

Hometown training

He added that he feels for the young athletes from Pangasinan who had to go to Manila when there are good coaches and training that could be offered to them in the province.

Ildefonso, now 46, said he plans to train the young players for two to three years, let them play for two years at any big school in Metro Manila and on to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

“It’s different, even though you are the best in the province, when you go to Manila you will encounter the bests of the bests. We wanted that the two years will not be wasted adjusting in Manila. Instead, the training will be done in the province, weights, proper food, proper training,” he said.

Ildefonso started playing basketball at 15 years old and went on to be a star player of the National University through a friend and province mate who also played for the Manila school.

He joined the PBA in 1998, was part of eight championships under the San Miguel Corporation franchise and was back-to-back Most Valuable Player in 2000 and 2001.

Whatever achievements he made career-wise and financially, he achieved through basketball.

Currently, he is part of the coaching staff of Converge Fiberxers in the PBA and of NU in the UAAP. (PNA)