MANILA - Filipino-American forward Zavier Lucero was flattered to receive MVP chants from the University of the Philippines faithful on Saturday, but he maintained that individual accolades are the least of his worries.
Lucero, a transferee from Cal State Maritime Academy, has been an immediate star for the Fighting Maroons in his first UAAP season. After the first round of the Season 84 tournament, he is leading the league in scoring with 15.29 points per game, while also contributing 8.29 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.86 assists per contest.
On Saturday night, he exploded for a career-best 27 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and notched three steals to lead UP to an 83-76 win against Far Eastern University. It was their sixth win in a row, and their 6-1 record put them in solo second after the first round.
He was showered with "M-V-P" chants from the UP fans at the Mall of Asia Arena towards the end of the game, after helping put the finishing touches on the win.
"It's flattering," Lucero said of the support he received from their fans. "But we have one goal in this team."
"Everybody has the same goal, [and] that's what's special about us," he added. "There's no individual accolades that are gonna make a difference if we aren't able to do what we set out to do."
"So as long as we stay focused on that goal, then I like where we're at."
Since a clunker of a debut against Ateneo de Manila University where he scored just two points, Lucero has been on a roll. He is shooting 62.3% from the field, the second-best mark in the UAAP, while also showcasing his versatility on the defensive end of the floor.
UP fans have dubbed him "Savior" Lucero, but the 22-year-old forward says his production is also a credit to his teammates.
"I'm getting open looks a little more than some other guys, which is allowing me to be on the scoreboard. But as far as me personally, I don't do much on my own, you know," he explained. "I get set up by my guys a lot."
He noted that against FEU, rookie big man Carl Tamayo freed him up for a clutch three-pointer with a massive screen that erased his defender. And all throughout the season, point guard Joel Cagulangan has been finding him for easy looks.
"It's just our team is really growing, and our chemistry is growing, and you can see that on the offensive end," he said.
UP will be back in action on Tuesday, as they open the second round against the National University Bulldogs.