Paul Desiderio could have left Diliman after his first season in 2013, when the squad posted a forgettable winless campaign.
Six years later, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons forward said farewell to the team on the finals stage and with a championship within his reach.
According to Desiderio, who capped his collegiate career with 15 points in a losing effort in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 finals on Wednesday, it was patience that made him stay, eventually leading UP to its best league finish in 32 years.
"Magpasensya kasi ikaw, player ka from Cebu, 0-14 ang start mo, ine-expect mo lilipat talaga ng school pero nagpasensya lang ako. Tinitiis ko, one win kahit na parang mukha na kaming loko, pag-graduate ko naman finals," Desiderio told reporters after Game 2.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles overwhelmed the Fighting Maroons 99-81 to sweep the title series and defend their UAAP title.
Desiderio also learned during his stay at UP to live up to their team nickname — to fight and never give up.
"Think positive lang parati na kahit na 'yung nawawala na kami. 'Yun ang problema namin dati sa UP, nilalamangan na kami, nawawalan na kami ng gana at tuloy-tuloy na 'yun. Happy naman ako na nabago 'yun," Desiderio said.
Despite the loss, Desiderio was thankful for what UP achieved this year, citing the expectations the Fighting Maroons exceeded.
He even recalled how they almost missed the final-4 this year, and how the "Atin 'to" spirit kept pushing them forward.
"Masaya pa rin kasi nakaabot kami ng finals. Wala naman mag-e-expect na dumating kami rito. Medyo delikado nga kami nu'ng una sa final 4. 'Yung imposible naging posible," Desiderio revealed.
The face of "Atin 'To", meanwhile, hopes a huge crowd continues to flock to the venues next season to support the Fighting Maroons.
"Sobrang happy, kasi nu'ng 2013, ang nanonood sa'kin iilan-ilan lang. Pero kanina paglabas ko, wow ang dami. Sana next year ganun pa rin. Sana wag silang magsawang suportahan kami," Desiderio added.
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