MANILA, Philippines — Ricci Rivero’s topsy-turvy offseason has taken him from De La Salle University to the Gilas Cadets, and now to University of the Philippines.
Rivero announced Friday that he will be transferring to UP, ending months of speculation.
The athletic swingman was infamously cut from the Green Archers in January together with older brother Prince and little-used reserve Brent Paraiso, allegedly because of a team rule that banned players from signing endorsement deals.
In a statement released to the media, Rivero said that he decided to join the Maroons after consulting family and friends, as well as Gilas teammates who “were raving about how supportive the UP community was of the UP Maroons.”
“They told me that UP Maroons fans were crazy about the team and were there for them, win or lose. I saw that, too, when I played against them; sobrang ingay ng mga taga UP; di mo alam kung lamang sila ng 10 o lamang ang kalaban nila ng 10," Rivero said.
UP Maroons coach Bo Perasol welcomed Rivero's decision and said the explosive guard "has the skill, work ethic, and character we look for in players who wear State U across their chests."
"We did our due diligence and took a long, hard look at Ricci, and it's clear to us that he will be an asset to the team and the university," Perasol said.
After initially saying that they had merely taken a “leave of absence,” Rivero and Paraiso formally bid La Salle goodbye last month. Paraiso has since transferred to University of Santo Tomas, where he will be reuniting with the former La Salle coach Aldin Ayo.
Rivero, like Paraiso, will have to take a year off to serve his residency before suiting up for the Fighting Maroons in UAAP Season 82.
According to Rivero, while he will always cherish his time with La Salle, “it was time to move on and time to make a decision that will help me become the best basketball player that I can be.”
He added: “Just like any student, I have dreams and goals and I am willing to work hard and do everything I can to achieve them.
“If a school is willing to give me an opportunity to keep playing in the UAAP and grow as a basketball player and as a person, then I will gratefully accept it and do everything I can to help that school win a championship.
“I am thankful that the University of the Philippines has offered me a chance to continue chasing my dreams, and I am honored to announce that I have accepted their invitation to join the UP Fighting Maroons.”
A highly recruited prospect out of La Salle Greenhills, Rivero showed flashes of promise as a rookie before rising to stardom in Season 80, eventually earning a Mythical Team nod.
In his sophomore season, Rivero averaged 14.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.7 steals for the Green Archers.
Before deciding to transfer to UP, Rivero played for the Gilas Cadets in the 2018 FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup together with his older brother and Kobe Paras.
This marks another recruiting coup for UP, which is expected to become a Final 4 contender in Season 81 thanks to the presence of big man Bright Akhuetie and the continued improvement of reigning Rookie of the Year Juan Gomez de Liaño and former Mythical Team member Paul Desiderio.
Gomez de Liaño, Desiderio and NCAA Season 80 juniors MVP Will Gozum are also part of the current Gilas Cadets squad.
UP President Danilo Concepcion led a contingent composed of alumni, students and members of the UP Maroons welcoming Rivero to UP. Also present were longtime UP Maroons supporters such as businesswoman Robina Gokongwei-Pe, Philippine Olympic Committee secretary-general Pato Gregorio and Cavite politican Jonvic Remulla.
Concepcion said the addition of Rivero “is consistent with the University’s pursuit of excellence in all fields of endeavor."
UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan echoed the sentiments of Concepcion, saying that the addition of Rivero "helps the Maroons in their efforts to bring honor not just to UP, but the people we have pledged to serve."
NowheretogobutUP Foundation chairperson Agaton Uvero said that while UP's other varsity teams have won UAAP gold, "the UAAP men's basketball crown has eluded us for over thirty years, and we believe this development brings us a step closer to ending this title drought."
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