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MANILA, Philippines – His time working with PBA legend Danny Ildefonso has paid dividends for Converge rookie Justin Arana.
Arana credited Ildefonso, one of the FiberXers’ assistant coaches, as he converted the game-winning basket that allowed Converge to complete its come-from-behind 102-101 win over Rain or Shine on Sunday, November 13.
The fourth overall pick posted a career-high 16 points on top of 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in helping the FiberXers notch their seventh straight victory in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Since Day 1, when I got drafted by Converge, it is coach Danny who has been guiding me,” said Arana of Ildefonso, a former two-time PBA MVP, in a mix of Filipino and English.
“On and off court, he is there to give advice, especially about my body. He tells me to bulk up. He also monitors what I eat. We train one-on-one. He has been a big help so I can adopt the moves he did before in the PBA.”
Those training sessions bore fruit on Sunday as the big man out of Arellano displayed composure in the game-winning play.
Arana received the ball on the elbow, dribbled twice to the right, spun to the left, and waited for Santi Satillan to bite on the fake before he sank the deuce.
He also came up clutch on the defensive end earlier, denying a Santillan jump shot that could have given the Elasto Painters a five-point cushion with under two minutes remaining.
“I’m really grateful to coach Danny. There are days when I get lazy, but he is there to push me,” Arana said. “He tells me that I’m already here in the PBA. If we put in the extra work, I’ll eventually get my hands on millions.”
The 6-foot-7 slotman also expressed his gratitude to head coach Aldin Ayo for putting the ball in his hands in the most crucial moment despite the fact that he has teammates who are more experienced in closing out games.
Arana has been a major contributor for Ayo, averaging 10.8 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 25 minutes of play.
“Credit to coach Aldin because he drew the last play for me,” Arana said. “I’m really grateful because he trusts me even if I’m a rookie.”
Arana will have his mettle tested as he goes up against towering import Prince Ibeh when Converge goes up against NorthPort on November 20 at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com