WITH elimination looming, graduating guard Paul Desiderio wanted to extend his days in the UAAP so bad that he’s willing to do everything in order for that to happen.
He didn’t mean that figuratively cause that ranges from scoring one basket after another to giving good solid picks to players double his size.
That has been the microcosm of Desiderio’s season so far – and his sacrifice wasn’t any more evident in UP’s 73-71 win over Adamson on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With the game tied at 71 and the Fighting Maroons having one more shot to win the game, Desiderio could have insisted on taking the last shot for the Fighting Maroons.
After all, he’s been red-hot, having scored all of his 19 points in the second half and hitting a clutch jumper one possession earlier. He opted to set one solid screen instead which freed up Bright Akhuetie for an easier basket.
“Sabi ko, amin talaga ‘to. Kaya solid pick talaga binigay ko kay Papi Sarr kahit na ang laki niya. Ang liit ko, 5-10, nag-seal pa ako sa kanya. Nakita ko nandun na si Bright, amin na talaga yun,” Desiderio which overcame a nightmare first half to come up with yet another clutch performance.
“Sobra nag-struggle ako first half, pero nung nakita ko yung crowd, sabi ko lalaban ako para sa kanila,” he added.
Desiderio shared that the possibility of this game being his last definitely crossed his mind, but the 5-10 gunner drew inspiration from his family who egged him on to keep fighting.
His family flew all the way from Cebu to watch this game and he won’t allow their stay in Manila to be that short.
“Kagabi, iniisip ko sa dinner ng family namin, sabi ko sa kanila, baka ito na last game ko sa UAAP. Sila, nakikita ko sila na positive lang. Sabi nila sa akin, ‘Hindi pa. Meron pang Wednesday,’” shared Desiderio.
“Dun ako kumukuha ng lakas na hindi ako maggi-give up. Galing Cebu ng parents ko, pumunta lang para manood,” he added.
Despite going scoreless in the first half, UP head coach Bo Perasol said that he never saw the quit in Desiderio’s eyes as despite struggling offensively – his veteran guard still gave his all on the defensive end.
Perasol said that those are the things that you can’t teach – the fire, the grit and the heart that Desiderio brings with him day in and day out.
“Alam mong gusto niya, nasa mata niya, nakikita mo yun. Hindi siya nandadaya sa depensa kahit na tumutodo sa opensa. Dun pa lang, alam mong gustong-gusto niya. There’s so much motivation in him, wala na nga ako dun e,” said Perasol.
“Gusto niyang i-end yung playing career niya on a winning note. Nandyan na yung gusto niyang umangat repuration niya just in case he goes to the draft. More than anything else, I think, it is just when he sees the crowd, he just wants to give back,” he added.
That’s exactly what Desiderio wants – to give the community one more gift before he exits, one more ‘atin to’ moment, this time on a bigger stage.
“Nasa isip ko, para sa UP community ‘to. Bago ako mag-exit, bigyan ko sila nang magandang exit, mabigyan man lang na makapasok ng Finals o one game para maka-Finals. Naalala ko, nung rookie year ko, iilan lang nanonood ng game,” Desiderio said.
“Ngayon, punong-puno ‘to. Para sa UP community lahat ‘to, kaya lumalaban kami.”
Now, it’s all about giving the school that chance, and who knows, things just might fall into place for them.
“Ilang taon nang ‘di pa nakapasok sa Finals ang UP. Ito na. Malay mo, one game, isang laro. Kahit hindi namin makuha, at least, nabigyan namin ng chance yung sarili namin.”