SOME players have “it” and some players don’t. And Paul Desiderio, the University of the Philippines lynchpin who helped push the Fighting Maroons into the UAAP finals for the first time in 32 years, has “it” in spades, according to former coaches and players who have competed with and against him.
“He’s a born winner!” said National University head coach Jamike Jarin, who coached the Cebuano on the Philippines’ under-16 national team back in 2013.
And win Desiderio did as he canned a midrange jumper to lift UP over the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 89-87, in overtime in their intense Final Four rubbermatch on Wednesday evening.
“First thing you will admire about Paul at that time and up to now is his fighting heart. Never afraid to play against the best players in Asia and in the world,” said Jarin.
Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu head coach Rommel Rasmo, whose Magis Eagles squad Desiderio vanquished in the 2011 Cesafi juniors finals in what was then a stunning upset, shares that Desiderio’s “huge fighting heart” simply sets him heads and shoulders above the rest in the UAAP.
“Imagine, he had Sean Maganti on him who is a much taller, longer player. But he didn’t care! It reminded me of Michael Jordan against Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. It happened on the same side, same area of the court,” the multi-titled head coach said of the former University of Visayas star.
Before his two straight makes at the end of overtime, Desiderio had just shot 2-of-18 from the field. The 5-foot-10 guard asserted he couldn’t have cared any less about his previous misses.
“Sa UP community ako kumukuha ng lakas ng loob dahil hindi sila nagsawa suportahan kami. Hindi ako worried sa consequences kasi mas mahal ko ang UP, para sa kanila ‘to,” Desiderio said.
He added that he couldn’t have doubt creep into his mind as he believes nothing good can come from not trying.
“Gusto ko lang talaga i-prove na kaya namin manalo. Ayaw ko mag-doubt kasi walang mangyayari if ayaw kong subukan,” Desiderio added.
And try, the Maroons will, as they are ranged against an Ateneo side that they just could not find an answer to in two games so far this season.
Win or lose, Desiderio says he will be at the forefront of the Maroons’ efforts to bring a title to the school that last won it in 1986.
“Laban lang kami, tutal nandito na kami i-grab nalang yung opportunity namin at kung ano man chance namin sa Ateneo.”