IT'S one thing to practice with some of the best the country has to offer, but it's still a different feeling to play in an organized game with them.
Ricci Rivero had his first taste of the action with the seniors team as he logged a little over four minutes in Team Pilipinas' 98-92 defeat to Jordan in a tuneup game on Monday.
And for the UP guard, he's just elated to have that experience under his belt.
"Syempre masaya kasi getting play alongside mga kuyas, to play under coach Yeng (Guiao), coach Ryan (Gregorio), and coach Caloy (Garcia), sobrang achievement na siya for me," he said.
Tentative at times, Rivero fumbled his first two chances but slowly got his game going, slashing his way to the hoop that drew oohs from the Meralco Gym stands. He finished with four points in the game.
But just like what he said in the days prior, scoring is the least of Rivero's concerns here.
"Like what I’ve said before, ang focus ko is to create open shots for my teammates kasi lahat naman silang nasa lineup, they are capable of making their shots. Alam ko namang mas ahead talaga sila kaya mas sila yung tumitira ng open shots," he said.
Rivero's reluctance to take shots, however, won't fly for his fellow Team Pilipinas pool member and UP assistant coach Alex Cabagnot.
"Sabi nga ni coach Alex sa akin, wag ako mag-hesitate tumira. So pag may open shots or open lane, i-try ko na atakihin yun. Magko-collapse naman yung defense if ever maka-create ako for the team," he said.
Rivero knows that chances won't come often for him in the national team, especially now with the other players set to arrive which will complete Guiao's 20-man group.
But the stint in itself is a blessing for him -- one which he hopes to lean on wherever his basketball career takes him.
"Maging part lang ng pool na ito, sobrang happy na ako. Inisip ko lang talaga, 'Lord, Ikaw na bahala sa akin kung ano mang makakabuti.' Ganoon naman ako palagi. If maging masama yung nangyari, baka lesson siya for me. Pero if maging maganda naman, parang blessing siya for me. So I think naging okay naman," he said.