Ricci Rivero. UAAP PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines — Signing with Taoyuan was worth the wait for Ricci Rivero after he stayed focused and committed to complete University of the Philippines' historic title run in the UAAP before pondering on his professional career.
The 24-year-old revealed to Inquirer Sports that Taoyuan has been in talks with his handlers at Virtual Playground even before the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament.
But his management decided not to tell him right away to avoid any distractions in his final playing year.
"They reached out to Virtual Playground even before the UAAP started. But I remained committed to UP," said Rivero in Filipino after signing as Taoyuan's world import in the P.League+.
"When Season 84 was still ongoing, they were in talks with sir Charlie Dy. But I don't have any idea about it to avoid any distractions during the season."
"I just learned the offer right after we won the championship," he added.
His commitment to the Fighting Maroons was the reason why Rivero opted not to declare in the previous PBA Rookie Draft, too.
"Nagkataon po na yung PBA Draft ay habang naghahanda po kami sa UAAP Finals, at alam naman po ng lahat kung gaano namin gusto makuha yung Championship," he said. "Lalo na po ako na gusto ring makabawi sa mga pagkukulang ko sa ibang games. Kaya po talagang nag focus na muna ako sa UAAP."
(PBA Draft coincided when we were preparing for the UAAP Finals. We really wanted to win the championship, especially me. I wanted to make up for my shortcomings in our few matches. That's why I really focused on the UAAP.)
Locked in with his goal to win a UAAP title, the 6-foot-1 guard's patience with his future paid off after UP ended a 36-year championship drought in dramatic fashion with JD Cagulangan hitting the game-winning triple in Game 3 to dethrone Ateneo.
"My UAAP career was full of ups and downs… But I chose not to turn my back, especially on the UP community, who continued to support me even in my struggles," Rivero said. "During that time I told myself: win or lose I wanted to show my gratitude to my school in my final playing year."
Rivero, who averaged 13.78 points, 4.17 rebounds, 2.17 assists, 1.72 steals, and 0.72 blocks in Season 74, will try to help Taoyuan rise from its 7-22 record, sixth place, in the previous P.League+ season.
As he enters the next chapter of his basketball career in Taiwan, Rivero is not promising anything, but he assures to give back to the Taiwanese club's trust to tap a Filipino player as a world import.
"I don't want to entertain any pressure. I want to take it one step at a time. It's a major adjustment so it's hard to make promises and set expectations," he said. "I just want to play right and give back to the trust they have given to a Pinoy (player)."
The Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) will be Rivero's inspiration as he takes his act in a global basketball league away from his family, which has watched his games at the venues from high school to college.
"The OFWs will be my inspiration in my first professional journey. Because I am doing this for my dream," Rivero said. "I want to go out of my comfort zone. This is for my personal growth as a player and as an individual."
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