MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin will never lose his faith in Dave Ildefonso despite the swingman’s offensive woes in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
Ildefonso struggled offensively anew missing all his seven shots in the first half against defending champion University of the Philippines on Saturday.
But Baldwin knew exactly what to do to get his prized ward going and help him snap out of his funk.
With worldly advice from Baldwin, Ildefonso came alive in the second half where he scored all of his 15 points including 12 in the third quarter alone.
“I think what really helped me out was when coach Tab really pulled me aside and just talked to me, and just gave me some Tab Baldwin wisdom, which I always am welcome to receive,” said Ildefonso, who shot 3-of-4 from deep in the second half and grabbed seven rebounds, after Ateneo’s 75-67 win.
“He just told me to just have fun. It’s a big moment, it’s a big game, so many people are watching. He told me that he just has so much belief in me, and he told me that he’s gonna have my back whatever happens.”
Despite the 6-foot-4 Ildefonso’s shooting slump this season, Baldwin reiterated that he will continue believing in him no matter what.
“Dave is dealing with a lot of pressure from a lot of different angles, I should say. And, I did tell him that no matter what, he’s my guy. There’s not an incident that can happen that backs me off of this guy,” Baldwin said. “I’ve grown to know him over the last three years, and this is a man of true character. This is a man of real substance, as a human being. He can go out there and play like a dog, he doesn’t lose one thing from me. But he won’t.”
Ildefonso couldn’t be more grateful for having a coach like Baldwin on his side.
“I told him that I’d have his back, too. That just helped me out, and the caliber of coach that he is, and just hearing that from a great coach like him, it just ups your confidence by a thousand percent,” he said.
“It was a big confidence boost because my shots still went in. They’ve been defending me really well, especially in the finals. As hard it is to look back at it, my performance in the finals, I just try to keep my head down and just keep working, and just try to get the shots that I can take,” Ildefonso said. “And just keep moving on, and just confidence-wise, this game is really gonna help me. And it’s really gonna help the team.”
The victory over the Fighting Maroons gave the Blue Eagles a golden opportunity to seal the top seeding with a win over the Adamson Falcons on Wednesday to close out the elimination round.