Known as an offensive player, Ricci Rivero has said numerous times that he will be more of a facilitator with the Gilas Elite during their series of tune-ups, heading into the fifth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“Like what I’ve said before – ang focus ko is to create open shots for my teammates, kasi lahat naman silang nasa line-up, capable of making their shots,” the 20 year old stalwart shared.
But he can’t do it all the time, as he needs to pick his spots to keep up with the big boys.
Monday evening, Rivero’s number was called up midway through the second stanza of Gilas’ friendly against Jordan. Joining him on the floor were the San Miguel Beermen’s championship quartet of Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Christian Standhardinger, and June Mar Fajardo.
“Ang first play na ginawa ko is umatake ako tapos, may screen. Then kinickout ko kay kuya June Mar, hindi lang na-shoot,” the UP Fighting Maroon recalled.
But in the next two possessions, the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Most Improved Player could not pull the trigger from downtown. He settled for a couple of lay-ups that were overcooked.
Good thing Cabagnot – who is one of the coaches in UP – was there to ground him.
“Kanina kasi sabi nga ni coach Alex kanina sa akin, ‘wag ako mag-hesitate tumira.
“So ‘pag may open shots or open lane, try na atekihin yun. Magco-collapse naman iyon if ever so maka-create ako,” he added.
In the next two possessions, Rivero had a fire in his eyes, as he drove strongly to score back-to-back baskets. This was his first Gilas Elite experience.
“Actually he was able to prove that his play is at the level of the guys here.
“He could have performed better, but I felt he was fouled in a few situations where he could have contributed a little bit more,” shared Gilas mentor Yeng Guiao. “But he has proven that he can play at this level. Although he’s playing in college, he can play at this level.”
And it’s a moment that he will relish for the rest of his life.
“Maging part lang ng pool na ito, sobrang happy na ako. Yun, kanina sobrang naging… inisip ko lang talaga, ‘Lord, ikaw na bahala sa akin.’
“Ganun naman ako palagi. If maging masama yung nangyari, baka lesson siya for me. Pero if maging maganda naman, parang blessing siya for me,” gushed Rivero after Gilas’ 92-98 loss to Jordan.
It is still unknown if Rivero will be called up once again in the closer of the Gilas-Jordan series on Wednesday, as the Ginebra quartet, Stanley Pringle, and Paul Lee will most likely be back in action. Lined up or not, though, Rivero plans on being there at the Meralco Gym.
“For next game, wala pa sinabi kung sinong maglalaro. Pero I think ready na yung iba kasi nakanood na sila ng ibang trainings, and then napaanood na nila yung game. Alam na nila yung gusto ni coach Yeng. At yung iba sa kanila, naglaro na kay coach Yeng before,” said the 6-foot-1 swingman.
“Mas abangan niyo yung next game kasi yun naman talaga ang I think mas malakas na team.”
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