La Salle rookie Prince Rivero. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – La Salle rookie Prince Rivero saw the extra work he had put in pay off as he made the most of the playing time given to him by head coach Juno Sauler in their game against the University of the East (UE).
Thrust into the game late in the final period after stalwarts Arnold Van Opstal and Jason Perkins fouled out, Rivero more than held his own against UE as he scored the go-ahead three-point play and then converted an insurance basket as well.
He finished with eight points, all of which came in the final period.
"Siguro binigyan lang ako ni Lord ng chance na maipakita ang talent ko," the former NCAA juniors MVP said after the contest. "Lagi akong nage-extra (work) para doon, para ma-prove ko siya."
When asked about playing the power forward spot for La Salle as opposed to his usual role as a small forward, Rivero said it was only a result of their other big men fouling out.
"Nagkataon lang 'yun na napasok ako sa four kasi wala na kaming ibang big men, and siguro 'yun nga, binless ako ni God para mabigyan ng dagdag na playing time kanina sa fourth quarter, especially noong crucial," he said.
"Siguro binigyan ni Lord si Coach ng parang fire na, 'O si Prince, pwede mong i-try 'yan.' Kasi I keep on working extra naman, so wala siyang reason para mag-doubt na gamitin ako," he added.
Rivero, who played for La Salle Greenhills in high school, said he has been working on his game ever since the NCAA season ended last year and plans to put on more extra work.
"Kailangan talaga mag-extra, kasi pataas lang ng pataas, hindi bababa 'yung level," he said.
Sauler, for his part, said the choice to put Rivero in the game instead of a more veteran big man – like Yutien Andrada – was pure intuition on his part.
"Sometimes we have to go with our gut feel," said Sauler. "Prince has been playing the three spot for us, but we decided to try him out at the four, so it was just gut feel."
Rivero scored the go-ahead basket with over a minute left off a feed from Jeron Teng, then made the bonus free throw to give the Green Archers a 56-54 lead. After UE cut the deficit, the rookie again scored off another assist from Teng to all but seal the game for the Archers.
"Nagkataon lang din siguro na maganda 'yung talbog ng bola sa akin, swerte lang din," said Rivero. "So thankful lang ako talaga na maganda 'yung laro ko kanina compared sa ibang games na nilaro ko."