By Joan Ko
He may be following his father’s footsteps, but NU’s towering forward Dave Ildefonso has no intention of staying behind and under his dad's giant shadow of a legacy—and quite literally, too. At 6 feet 4 inches, only an inch shorter than his father and PBA 8-time champion Danny Ildefonso, Dave has already showcased his own flare on the court on his second year with NU. He doesn’t shy away from competition and still plays with a full heart despite the NU Bulldogs' losing streak this season. He attacks with unrelenting energy, making him a Bulldog that should be feared more than its bark.
Only two years in with NU and he’s already given the impressive steadying presence that the team and their coaches have expected of him. When asked if he performs with intense pressure set on his back every game time because he is after all playing with his older brother Shaun in the same team, he only comments that, “We play differently and it’s unfair to be compared to my brother because we really have varying technical skills and techniques to show." He adds, "But one thing’s for certain, we both like to play all-out—sweat, tears, and bruises.”
For many who’s seen him up close, Dave may come off as physically intimidating, but his career arc went on a meteoric rise due to his ability to play intensely but still manage to keep his head down and keep it cool with opposing teams. He knows what he can do and he shows it. He was a vital piece in landing the Ateneo Blue Eaglets’ championship back in high school so whenever he gets to play against his former teammates, Dave jokes about “having a fun time in the court." He elaborates, "After all, our bond started through basketball and it’s nice that until now, the friendship is being held together by basketball. We still talk in group chats, I get to see them play, and even if we’re on the opposing sides now, we really know how to laugh it off after a game. Win or lose, I have made friends that will be my comrades for life.”
Dave has a kind of laid-back persona that makes him easy to be liked by many. On his downtime, he likes to play video games, talk about cars and shoes with dad and brother, and aim at playing pro-ball in the future. Just like most of the boys we know IRL, he also shared the same sentiment about how playing video games shouldn’t be something frowned upon “because it’s still better than doing other vices outside your house."
Dave explains, "You avoid drinking and staying out too late partying and causing stress to your parents not knowing what you do outside. But I can limit my gaming time. I know I can’t afford to lose more time when I could be doing something more valuable like learning a new skill or giving my body and mind the kind of rest it deserves. Especially for us athletes, a little unwinding and computer games really won't hurt.”
When we asked what quality he values as an athlete, Dave shares that time management may be one other thing he is actually good at—that and adapting to new environment. In fact, he pretty much eased into the student-athlete life rather comfortably and said there was very minimal adjustment he had to make since he started in the UAAP.
“I live really near NU, so I get to sleep in a little later like a normal student even if we have to attend practices in the morning. I don’t need to rush through traffic which is always nice as compared to when I was in high school. Going to Katipunan was like living through commuting students' horror stories, too. Now I live nearby with my brother, so it really feels a lot exactly like being at home."
Speaking of his brother, Dave reveals the kind of relationship they have as teammates. "In our training and pep talks, Shaun and I would always look into what our coach would advise us. We do what is best and we improve on what needs improving. We can easily separate personal life with life as teammates. If anything, it actually made us even closer as brothers too.”
Regardless of how every game turns out, this full-fledged breakout star continues to show flashes of his own success and is not in any hesitation to share it with his fellow teammates and other aspiring talents, too. Along with adaptability and time management, Dave strongly suggests kids to take sports because of the kind of self-discipline and respect for self-sacrifice one could learn from it.
“Basketball is no joke because you really need to prioritize what you want versus what you need wisely," Dave says when asked for further advice. "No matter what you set your mind to, you have to know how to stick with it after you weigh out all your options into making it happen. It should come from the heart, yes. But also use your mind into making it come true. Following through is just as important.”
From a family of basketball players and one living legend, Dave definitely has big shoes to fill. But it looks like this Bulldog is set for super stardom and would not settle for anything less than he deserves. We believe he’s just getting started into making his own legacy.
Photographed by Miguel Alomajan
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Ryuji Shiomitsu
Grooming by Muriel Vega-Perez and team
Video by Lui Jimenez, Produced by Deiniel Cuvin
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