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DiGregorio thrilled to be back with old team

Mike DiGregorio (3) and RK Ilagan were traded by Converge to Blackwater on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. PBA IMAGE

A NEW year and a new team for veteran shooting guard Mike DiGregorio.

The 35th overall pick in the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft has bounced around the pro league in recent years, with his latest move being sent back by Converge to Blackwater.

He was traded to Blackwater along with young guns RK Ilagan and Tyrus Hill in exchange for youthful big man Barkley Ebona and the Bossing's Season 48 first-round pick.

The 6-foot-1 guard out of McKendree University will be making his “second coming” so to speak with Blackwater, his home from 2017 through the tail end of 2019, before being shipped to TNT.

Asked what he felt about his latest move in his PBA career, DiGregorio said he's focused more on his goal as a pro, knowing “he is now at the prime of his career.”

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“I still have a ton of fire inside me,” DiGregorio told The Manila Times. “I'm a super competitive person and I always feel like I have something to prove. I always feel like that. I have a lot of goals. I still want to accomplish and that drives me every day.”

DiGregorio enjoyed his finest year as a pro during the 2017-2018 season after averaging 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in over 29 minutes of play for Blackwater.

“I'm in the prime of my career and I know that there is so much more to give. And that's the mindset I continue to stay in. To give more, to work more, striving for success,” he said.

DiGregorio claimed he feels good about returning to the franchise that somehow trusted him with the playing time that enabled him to flourish in the PBA under then coach Leo Isaac.

“Obviously, there are a ton of familiar faces that I'll get to reunite with and I'm excited for that,” DiGregorio said, noting the presence of veteran playmaker JVee Casio, who became his backcourt mate at Alaska from 2022-2021.

“My expectations are to help continue to build on the culture that Coach AV (Ariel Vanguardia) has started with the group. I know we'll come in every day and work hard and make sure we're building winning habits. I expect the group to have success and that will come with our preparation and mindset.”

DiGregorio's reentry into the underachieving franchise comes with a lot of challenges though.

For one, Blackwater won just three games in the 2022-23 Commissioner's Cup after the Bossing suffered injuries to key players like Casio, Troy Rosario and Baser Amer.

But being one of the veterans for the Bossing, DiGregorio believes he can be a strong locker-room voice for a team that made its last playoff appearance during the 2019 Commissioner's Cup.

“It's going to be great being one of the vets along with those guys you mentioned,” he said. “Being a vet means you have a lot of experience in this league and with that title comes a responsibility as well.”

DiGregorio intends to set a strong example to the young and seasoned players.

“You have to set an example and you have to show leadership for the group. And leadership comes in different forms, so it's good to share that responsibility with those guys because everyone will bring a different form of leadership and that will only help the group as a whole as we come together,” he added.

DiGregorio averaged just 4.8 points in eight minutes of play during his eight-game stint with Converge in the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

He began his PBA career with Mahindra (now Terrafirma) during the 2015-2016 before being traded in the middle of the 2016-2017 season to Blackwater.

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