After recruiting Ricci Rivero to UP, Juan GDL is pumped for Maroons’ future
MANILA, Philippines – There are many reasons why former La Salle rising star Ricci Rivero decided to move to University of the Philippines.
It’s safe to assume one of those is because of the recruitment of his teammate and friend, Juan Gomez De Liaño.
Speaking to Rappler during an exclusive interview on Monday, May 21, the reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year admitted that the moment he found out the 20-year-old Rivero had left the DLSU Green Archers, he put on the full court recruitment press to get the high-flying Ricci to Diliman.
“I’ve been talking to him ever since [he left],” said Juan, who's also Rivero’s teammate in the Gilas 23-for-23 team that’s participating in the ongoing FIloil tournament.
“Like during practice, I’d tell him, ‘Bro, solid spot mo (your spot would be solid). By the time you play [at UP], it will be you, me, Javi [Gomez De Liaño], Will [Gozum], and Bright [Akhuetie].’ I was [also] just telling him about academics, about UP, and how chill it is.”
Rivero was a superstar for La Salle Greenhills in the NCAA’s junior division before getting to the collegiate level, where he spent his first two seasons with the Green Archers. After playing sparingly in his freshman year, Ricci blossomed in his second season with averages of 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists a game. He was named the Season 80 Most Improved Player of the Year.
Due to the UAAP’s requirement of spending a year in residency for transferring students, Rivero will sit out Season 81 in 2018 before suiting up in 2019. His arrival will come at a great time, since it will be the first season the Maroons will be without leading scorer Paul Desiderio, who’s playing his final year of eligibility this year.
“I feel really excited that Ricci joined our program. He could spread the floor. He can play multiple positions. I enjoy playing with him a lot,” said Juan.
“Kami 'yung backcourt sa Gilas. We have that connection na din.”
(We’re the backcourt of Gilas. We have that connection already.)
Gomez De Liaño explained further, saying that he and Ricci can alternate between the guard positions, which they’ve already been doing with the national team.
“We can switch off. I can play the point and he can play the two. He can play the point and I can play the two.”
The arrival of Rivero, who will have two years left of eligibility once he’s done with residency, strengthens the dynamic and talented young core of the Maroons. Juan’s skillful older brother Javi will be playing only his 3rd season when the UAAP opens this year, while Gozum, the reigning MVP of the NCAA’s junior division, is only a freshman.
The 4 of them will also get to play with foreign student-athlete Bright Akhuetie, who’s making his debut with the Maroons this coming season. Many believe he will be a force in the pain for a UP team in need of inside scoring.
Does Juan expect UP to be a championship contender with Ricci on board?
“For sure, for sure.”
Also thinking about the now
Taking his talent and potential into consideration, it’s no secret the future of UP just got a whole lot brighter with the transfer of Rivero. But the Maroons still have the present to worry about, and the team is currently focused on getting prepared for the UAAP men’s basketball tournament in September.
After losing their first 3 games in the Filoil tournament, the Maroons won 3 straight to draw even at .500. The key to reaching a better level, according to Juan, is to solidify the role of each player in the team. Once that’s accomplished, UP can attain their goal of making it to the Final Four.
“Yeah, that’s our main goal, Final Four, to make it there. We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” said Gomez De Liaño.
“Right now, we have a lot of talented players. The thing is, how are we going to gel together? Kulang namin (What we need) is our players should know their specific roles. [If] you’re a point guard, you pass first. If you’re a scorer like Paul, you just keep on shooting. If you’re a rebounder, you just keep getting the boards."
“Individual wise,” he continued, “I think everyone knows that [we’re talented]. The thing is, how are we going to gel this coming season?”
Time will tell. – Rappler.com