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Uichico roots for returning Ildefonso

Jong Uichico will be at the stands when Danny Ildefonso formally comes out of retirement to play for Converge in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup.

In a conversation with Daily Tribune, Uichico waxed nostalgic upon learning that his former ward will be in playing uniform when the FiberXers battles Meralco – his former team – in the first game of a scheduled double-header today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

After all, Uichico coached Ildefonso when he was still playing with San Miguel Beer, which resulted to six PBA titles, two Most Valuable Player awards, and a lot of happy memories.

Now, Ildefonso will be seeing action anew, making him the league’s oldest player at 46.

“I plan to see him come out of retirement,” Uichico said in a telephone interview.

“We had great moments together. I was starting my career as a coach and he was an up and coming star then.”

In a social media post by Converge coach Aldin Ayo, the league’s Commissioner’s Office formally approved the activation of the 6-foot-6 native of Urdaneta, Pangasinan.

Ildefonso, the top overall pick of the Beermen in 1998, will be the 15th man on the Converge roster while still serving as assistant coach.

Uichico admitted that his decision to return had taken him by surprise.

“I was surprised, but I’m confident he’ll hold his own as we know he’s fit to play,” Uichico said.

“But probably, this is also a good way that he receives a fitting farewell and the kind of retirement he deserves for all the accomplishments he had as a player.”

After spending 15 years with San Miguel, Ildefonso moved to Meralco in 2013 until injuries led to his retirement two years later.

He moved to Alaska as assistant coach in 2017 before accepting the offer of serving as assistant coach of National University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.

At the PBA, Ildefonso will get a chance to face his son, Shaun, depending on how his team – Rain or Shine – will fare in the final stretch of eliminations. His other son, Dave, is campaigning professionally with Suwon KT in South Korea.

Still, Uichico has a golden piece of advice to Ildefonso.

“Just take it easy as it’s been eight years since the last time you played,” Uichico said.

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