This season, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons were the talk of the town — the feel good story of the UAAP Men’s Basketball tournament after making it to the Finals for the first time in 32 years.
Next season, they will still be the talk of the town. But not because they were the underdogs that rose to the top.
And incoming fourth-year UP head coach Bo Perasol knows this.
“Well, importante kasi diyan parang we have to live up to the expectations given to us. The challenge will definitely be harder,” Perasol shared.
Come the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball tournament, gone are the remnants from the days when the Fighting Maroons struggled to even rack up just one win. Besides the team having a Finals experience under their belt, they bring in two blue chip recruits in Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero.
Both stalwarts know that there will be high expectations on them once they don the UP jersey. But they won’t fall into the trap of falling to the pressure.
“I’ve been in the limelight since I was a kid. It’s just a part of my life. It’s not really pressure to me because I use it as a motivation. I just see it as people talking about me and the team,” shared Paras, who played for Div I schools Creighton and Cal State.
“At least, there’s people talking about us now.”
“Same thing. Focus pa rin ako and try to do my best, give everything for the team. I’m really looking forward to playing with these guys,” said Rivero, who played for the DLSU Green Archers for two season.
“Thankful din ako na nakasama ko yung mga graduating dahil marami rin kaming fun experiences together.”
Paras and Rivero are carrying winning heritages with them.
Paras’ father Benjie was instrumental in leading UP to the top of the collegiate world 32 years ago. For his part, Rivero already has a UAAP gold in his cabinet.
“We don’t really want to think of us as malakas kami.
“Ever since I was with La Salle pa, ang sinasabi lang ng seniors namin is wag isipin na kami ang team-to-beat but rather, we all worked for this,” Rivero opined.
“At least, I’m kind of being known for something else. Before I was known as the anak of Benjie Paras. Now, I’m making a name for myself,” shared Paras, on the other hand.
“There’s no pressure at all. If you put it as pressure, then it’s your fault. It’s all in the mind.”
UP’s leader next season Juan Gomez de Liano firmly believes that his team will be back in the Finals next season. First things first however — the three alphas need to jell well.
“UP will be in the Finals, definitely.
“With Ricci and Kobe, yeah. One thing we gotta do is how to jell together, that’s the most important thing. We have enough time to jell,” the incoming third-year combo guard opined.
And last season was just the start of something beautiful for the Maroons and the UP basketball program.
“UP showed na there’s beauty in the struggle.
“It’s a great feeling since they are there na. People said na they needed me and Ricci to get to the Finals. No, they did not! Look what at what happened? Good vibes lang then they are in the Finals,” Paras closed.
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