It surely feels like it’s been a lifetime since we last saw Ricci Rivero take the court in a UAAP basketball game.
Now, the highlight machine that used to don the green and white of De La Salle University will finally be making his comeback, but this time clad in the colors of the University of the Philippines.
The member of the UAAP Season 80 Mythical Team will be the first to tell you that the journey from Taft to Diliman hasn’t exactly been easy.
“The journey was like I went super off-road talaga. It was really shaky and I wasn’t really sure if I would be able to make it and get a comeback season,” Rivero said.
After going through what he had gone through, Rivero is just happy to be moving onto a new chapter in his career.
“For me, everything happens for a reason and God will not give me something that I can’t go though. I really do believe in prayers so for me, I just really offer everything to Him. I don’t really want to be upset at everything, especially the bad things that have happened to me because for me, may reason yun and He won’t give something that I can’t get through.”
“Sobrang nag-serve siya as a lesson for me and it really helped me a lot. I took it as a positive, na what if hindi ako umalis doon tapos something bad happened to me there. Kailangan talagang i-take mo yung negative things into positive for you to be able to move on to or come up with a better option,” he added.
Now, Rivero just wants to be back on the court again.
“I’m really excited. Sobrang excited ako because since I transferred to UP, I’ve really wanted to play in the UAAP because I find the UAAP as the most entertaning part of being a basketball player here in the Philippines.”
The fan favorite will be part of a super stacked UP squad that will feature fellow big-name newcomer Kobe Paras as well as established Fighting Maroons stars in reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie, sweet-shooting siblings Juan and Javi Gomez De Liaño, and floor general Jun Manzo, among others.
With that much firepower on one team, the question of chemistry and ball sharing is always asked.
For Rivero, the number of stars on their team shouldn’t be a concern.
“For me, it’s not going to be really hard for us to play with each other or play alongside each other, pero siguro it’s more of about how we embrace the roles that the coaches will be giving us during the season,” he explained.
While he was one of the go-to guys in Taft, he says he’s ready to accept a less glamorous role in order to achieve the ultimate goal of success as a team.
“Ako sobrang ine-embrace ko talaga yung fact na maraming kayang mag-score sa team so why still put myself in a situation na ako lang yung titira? For me, ano ba yung main goal ng team? It’s siyempre to win every game so I don’t really want to think myself first kasi I really want to do is to win the championship.”
Instead of being the focal point of the offense, Rivero says he’s happy to serve a creator for the rest of his talented teammates if it means getting the job done.
“I just want to put myself to that point na ibibigay ko kung ano yung kailangan ng team. I can create for those players na siyempre kayang-kaya mag-score. I’m going to embrace that role na maging sobrang team player talaga.”
While there will always be those who doubt, there will also be those who believe and this year’s Fighting Maroons are pegged to be title contenders especially since they were able to reach the Finals last season, even without Rivero and Paras.
As such, expectations are only bigger this time around, but Rivero would like to manage those expectations.
He won’t guarantee a championship, but he will guarantee effort and hard work.
“I won’t tell you guys to expect a lot from us, but just expect that we’re really going to play as a team and play for the community and not play for ourselves. Also, we’re not telling you guys that we’re going to win this season, but we assure you that we will give it everything that we’ve got.”
This comeback season, Rivero says, goes beyond just returning to the court.
“For me, I’ll be more of a leader on the court and a more mature person off the court as well,” he expressed.
“I’ve made so many mistakes back then and it has shaped me into who I am now and just expect that I’m really going to help the team win in a way na hindi makakasama sa team.”
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