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From Heartbreak to Homecoming: Zav Lucero returns to Araneta with determination

When Zavier Lucero entered the hallowed grounds of the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday evening, he had mixed emotions.

Back on December 14, 2022 at the same venue, Lucero went for a drive he used to do multiple times early in the fourth quarter during Game 2 of the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Basketball Finals.

However, he could not get a proper plant before liftoff, falling to the ground soon after.

It was deemed that not only would he be out for the winner-take-all match a few days later but also be out for a long period of time due to a left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.

Four-hundred forty-three days later, he returned to the same venue that saw him suffer his worst heartbreak.

No longer was he donning University of the Philippines’ maroon but is now sporting Northport’s red.

And he was just glad to be playing the game that he loves most.

“It feels good to play basketball again,” said the 6-foot-7 winger, who was drafted as the fifth overall pick in the 2023 PBA Draft.

The recovery of Lucero took longer than usual.

UAAP85-MBB-ZAVIER-LUCERO-1 From Heartbreak to Homecoming: Zav Lucero returns to Araneta with determination Basketball News PBA  - philippine sports newsHe missed the entire 2023-24 PBA Commissioner’s Cup as Northport gave him time to recover.

It was only last week when he returned to the country before signing a two-year deal with the Batang Pier.

Lucero, though, made sure to put in the work during his long time off, revealing that he made sure to gain some mass to prepare for his pro career.

“A year-long recovery, so for me, you got to pack on muscle. I could say I gained 30 pounds just lifting and trying to prepare myself for the pro level and be ready to withstand whatever I can,” he shared.

“I put the work in to come back stronger.”

Lucero entered the game with a minute left in the opening frame. Seconds later, he was able to record a block — his first-ever stat as a PBA player.

PBA-Season-48-Northport-Zavier-Lucero From Heartbreak to Homecoming: Zav Lucero returns to Araneta with determination Basketball News PBA  - philippine sports news

(c) EMBM

“That’s part of my game that I will never sacrifice. If I have the chance to make a play on defense, I’ll go for it. That’s as good a part of the game as offense,” he opined.

“For me, it’s just about helping the team on offense or defense. Just trying to help the team as best I can.”

Lucero ended up with 13 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks in 31 minutes of action.

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Not bad for someone who had just returned after more than a year.

Despite the heartbreaking 107-100 loss they received at the hands of NLEX, Lucero is grateful for the trust given to him by Bonnie Tan and the entire Northport staff.

After all, this is just the beginning for this young crop of Batang Pier.

He gives everyone the trust to play their game,” he said about Tan, a good friend of his UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde.

“Obviously, we didn’t get the win, but I feel like we were there.

With game No. 1 in his new chapter done, Lucero is looking forward to more.

But before anything else, he knows that he still has a lot to work on to prove that the long wait for him is worth it.

“It’s getting there. I felt good out there, didn’t feel winded. It’s just that I need to find my rhythm again, missed some gimmes, and dropped some passes. It’s my first game in over a year,” he said.

“I’m just happy that I made it through, and my knees are still intact.”

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