Coming into Season 80 of the UAAP, Ricci Rivero stated, “I just want to be the best that I can be.” Now that he is playing for the Green Archers the second year around, the younger Rivero has definitely become a force to be reckoned with as he has stepped up and has taken on the role that Jeron Teng left after his graduation last year. Along with two-time Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala, the second-year forward now also carries major offensive responsibilities for the Green-and-White.
Rivero enters practice with the mindset, “God will never give you something that somebody else is supposed to have.” By earning his place in the spotlight of Season 80 as one of the league’s brightest stars, Rivero has positioned himself in an area that some players in the UAAP can only dream of. The LaSallian caught up with Rivero as he shares how he handles the new responsibilities given to him as a sophomore player, coupled with his academics in DLSU.
Taking on a bigger role
Overall, this has been a year full of learning experiences for Ricci. “The one thing that improved from my game last year would be my patience.” Rivero states. Adding to that, he says that just like any other player, he has had his fair share of ups and downs. One must accept that there is no growth without struggle and that the value of success is sweetened when one overcomes adversities that challenge the individual, both physically and mentally.
In the 2017 Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup, Rivero, with his breakout performance in the tournament, earned a spot in the Mythical Five. And in this year’s UAAP, he made the season his personal highlight reel with his flashy euro-steps and rim-rattling dunks. In spite averaging only 7.2 minutes per game last season, Rivero still enthralled the crowd with his athleticism and showed his potential as he averaged 5.5 points and 1.0 rebound per game. Nevertheless, in Season 80, Rivero shined in the midst of numerous talented players in the UAAP, as he finished eighth in the MVP race with 56.2857 Statistical Points (SPs); giving him a chance to be part of this season’s Mythical Five, as only one import is allowed in the chosen five.
Despite having a mostly quiet year last season and leaving the spotlight mainly to fellow rookie Aljun Melecio, Rivero has been one of the defending champions’ key players on both sides of the court. Even if Coach Ayo did not place him in the starting line-up during the first few games of the first round, Rivero helped with steadying the ship for La Salle especially in the most critical moments. One of those important times came in the dying moments of DLSU’s second round victory against ADMU, wherein Rivero calmly knocked down two clutch free throws.
With the loss of King Archer Jeron Teng, Coach Ayo made it known that Rivero would have to step up to alleviate the loss of the recently drafted Alaska Ace. Nonetheless, even with the pressure that the UAAP stage brings, Coach Ayo’s trust and belief that Rivero could take charge and handle all the challenges thrown at him. That gave the sophomore confidence, “That’s what coach told me before. I have a bigger responsibility because he trusts me enough that he can count on me.”
With his brother, Prince Rivero, and close friend, Brent Paraiso, on the team, it was easier for Rivero to adjust to his new role and at the same time cope with the heavy load that comes with being a student. Together with the Lasallian community’s love for the sport and the Green Archers, Rivero added that this makes staying in DLSU special.
It felt like it was just yesterday when Rivero was playing for the La Salle Green Hills Greenies during his high school days. Now, he is able to don the Green-and-White jersey once more by playing for the Green Archers. Even after playing for two years for the Taft-based squad, Rivero still feels blessed that he is still able to represent his beloved alma mater by playing the sport that he loves on one of Philippine collegiate basketball’s biggest stages. He promises that he will do his best to make the Lasallian community proud for the remainder of his stay in the University. This is only the beginning for La Salle’s budding star and believe it when he says that the best is yet to come.