Ricci Rivero relishes ending his UAAP career the way he started it–with a title

UP's Ricci Rivero. UAAP PHOTO

UP’s Ricci Rivero. UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Ricci Rivero became the first player to win UAAP championships in two different schools as he ended his collegiate career with a historic title with University of the Philippines and a bigger win for the UP Ikot Drivers Association.

“I’m just really blessed that I started my UAAP career as a champion, and ended as a champion as well,” said Rivero after UP’s epic 72-69 overtime victory over Ateneo in Game 3 on Friday at Mall of Asia Arena.

The 23-year-old, who won his first championship during his rookie season at La Salle in 2016, ended his UAAP career with UP’s first championship since 1986. But more importantly, he kept his promise as he is set to donate a total of Php 178, 800 to the Ikot jeepney drivers.

Rivero dedicated every point to the drivers by donating 250 pesos for every bucket and scored a total of 248 points in 18 games to donate Php 62,000. 

Virtual Playground matched his Php 250 per point, UP college of human kinetics Dean Kiko Diaz and Debbie Tolentino pledged Php 50 each per bucket, while Jeao Diaz of Sagitarian Agri Phils Inc., Isabela donated Php 30,000 as Rivero will personally give the donations to the Ikot drivers once they set a schedule.

The flamboyant guard is grateful to spend his last two UAAP playing years as a Fighting Maroon, especially being part of this batch under coach Goldwin Monteverde.

“I just wanna thank God, really, for giving us this kind of blessing. It’s such an honor to be part of this team, to be handled by Coach Gold and the whole coaching staff. The people behind our team, the management side, we really thank you,” said Rivero, who had nine points, three rebounds, and two steals in Game 3. 

“Adapting to Coach Gold’s system is, for me, it’s something that’s very easy, ’cause he made it really easy for all of us. He put me and the players in a situation where we can maximize our strength as individuals and as a team.”

In Game 2, Rivero received backlash on social media after uncharacteristically dribbling the time away in the final 17 seconds when UP was down four.

The 6-foot-1 guard, who averaged 13.78 points, 4.17 rebounds, 2.17 assists, 1.72 steals and 0.72 blocks this season, admitted he read what other people say, but he made sure not to lose his focus on his team and its goal.

“I’m really used to people talking a lot, on and off the court. But for me, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Sometimes, yes, I read things, if there are negative comments, I sometimes take it as… kung mali nga talaga ako, pwede kong i-tama (if I was really wrong, I can correct it),” said Rivero, who put on the finishing touches in Game 1.  “But if it doesn’t make sense, it is something that doesn’t matter to me. My focus is really with the team.”

Rivero, who didn’t enter the 2022 PBA Rookie Draft, refused to give any comment on what’s next for him. For now, he just wants to seize the moment of his last UAAP championship.

“I’m just gonna enjoy this with my teammates. We have a bonfire, then we’re gonna enjoy it,” Rivero said.

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