THE long wait is finally over for Ricci Rivero.
Relegated to the Team B since transferring from La Salle, the enigmatic guard was back in the frontlines, this time for University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 81 3x3 tournament.
Playing alongside Will Gozum and brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano on Saturday, Rivero was overjoyed to don the Fighting Maroons jersey in an official UAAP event.
"Sobra! I've been waiting for this the entire 2018," he said. "I haven't been doing anything last year besides studying and working myself back. Syempre, babalik pa rin ako sa sport na mahal ko talaga, which is basketball. Sobrang saya ko to participate in the UAAP again and syempre, ang sarap to represent my school which is UP."
Rivero said that more than the game, it's the electric atmosphere which he missed the most during his residency year, one which he relished when he took the halfcourt at Ayala Malls Feliz in Pasig.
"It's really different to see a crowd cheer for you while doing the thing you love. Iba talaga yung dating sa basketball," he said.
And Rivero didn't waste time weaving his magic anew, scoring nine in UP's 13-8 opener over NU.
His passion for the game was in full view, and it also led to him getting ejected in a highly-physical battle against FEU, with UP coming out on top, 13-11.
Rivero, though, more than made up for that hiccup, scoring six in the Fighting Maroons' 12-8 defeat to UST before ending day one of competitions with five in a tight 15-13 UP victory over his former school La Salle.
It was a promising campaign for the Fighting Maroons, wounding up at second place with their 3-1 win-loss record.
But Rivero believes that his side could still get better, as he tries to blend better with his teammates for the second day of the 3x3 tournament as well as his early preparation for UAAP Season 82 later this year.
"Bago pa lang ako sa UP, pero getting to play with them who are really known sa UP community, sila talaga yung true UP. Kahit bago ako, silang tatlo may chemistry na. Isa yun sa wine-work on ko now, forming chemistry with each and every member of UP," he said.