CLARK FREEPORT–Alaska rookie forward Barkley Eboña could only be grateful to have PBA legend Danny Ildefonso as his mentor.
The 6-foot-6 Eboña’s improvement under the former two-time MVP Ildefonso’s watch was in full display in the Aces’ 120-82 drubbing of Blackwater on Tuesday at the Smart 5G-powered Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Coming off the bench, the former FEU standout powered his way to a game-high 24 points–the highest output by a rookie so far in the Philippine Cup bubble–on top of two rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 24 minutes of action.
“Sobrang sarap (sa pakiramdam) syempre alam naman natin Danny I., legend na sya sa PBA. Kilalang magaling sa ilalim and sya pa ‘yung nagtuturo sa’kin. Gina-grab ko lang ‘yung opportunity para ma-apply ko sa game,” he said.
Eboña bared that he is learning a plethora of moves from one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players, who took June Mar Fajardo under his wings during the twilight of his career in San Miguel/Petron as well as Vic Manuel when he became an assistant coach in Alaska.
“Nagpapasalamat ako na nandyan sya para i-guide ako habang naglalaro,” said the 23-year-old bruiser.
Ildefonso, an eight-time PBA champion, said that the lanky Eboña still has a lot of room for improvement, especially on his weight, shooting and post play.
But the 43-year-old mentor is very much willing to keep on guiding Eboña as he saw something special in the young cager.
“Nandito lang ako na tutulong sa kanya. Sabi ko nga sa kanya, bigyan nya lang ako ng chance na matulungan sya. Okay naman ‘yung bata, very coachable at nakikinig naman. May nakikita akong special sa kanya kaya gustong-gusto ko pa sya maturuan,” said the eight-time PBA champion.
“‘Yung defense nya talaga at perfect timing. Minsan iniisip ko pa lang kung ano ang dapat nya gawin pero nandun na sya. May gift sya sa defense.”
With Fajardo, Manuel and now Eboña showing their wares, Ildefonso has been regarded as one of the greatest coaches of big men in the league. But for “Lakay”, the recognition is just a bonus.
“Ang goal ko lang talaga ay maging blessing ako sa ibang tao, sa mga players sa pinagtatrabahuhan ko. ‘Yun lang naman ang gusto ko.