LAST season, Ricci Rivero nearly didn’t make it to the UAAP lineup because of the possibility that he will not have enough playing time for La Salle in his rookie year.
Staying patient, Rivero gained the trust of La Salle coach Aldin Ayo on his way to joining the Mythical Five in only his sophomore year.
Ricci’s father Paolo bared his son was not supposed to make the cut in his rookie year after playing for La Salle Greenhills in high school. This was in large part to Jeron Teng still in the forefront of the Green Archers’ offense and defense.
“Last year, kinausap na kami ni coach Aldin na supposedly, mag-skip siya ng one season kasi ‘yung time talaga niya, na kay Jeron,” said Paolo. “Tinanong ko si Ricci, sabi niya, laban na lang siya sa spot niya at sa playing time niya. Depende na lang sa ipapakita niya sa practice.”
In his rookie year, Rivero was a role player but proved that he belonged, having played respectably in games in which Teng sat out due to injuries. He went on to average 5.0 points and 7.0 minutes in his freshman year.
“May span na parang may pinaayos si Jeron sa bone spurs niya. Nagamit si Ricci. Nag-best player naman siya na wala si Jeron," said the elder Rivero.
After Teng capped off his collegiate career by winning the Finals MVP, Rivero was given extended playing time by Ayo in his sophomore year, and he made sure to earn every minute of his playing time.
“Siguro ‘yung confidence ni Ricci at nasabi naman sa kanya ni coach Aldin na mag-stick siya sa system ng team, may playing time siya,” said the Green Archers guard's dad.
Ricci has flourished in his second year. Prior to Game Two of the UAAP Season 80 finals, Ricci averaged 13.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.6 steals including some highlight reels.
He was named as one of the Mythical Five winners were he was joined by teammate Ben Mbala, along with Alvin Pasaol of University of the East, Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo, and Jjay Alejandro of National University.
“Mas relaxed si Ricci ngayon. Maayos ‘yung relationship nila ni coach. ‘Yung confidence level ni Ricci ngayon, mas mataas kasi nabibigyan siya ng playing time,” said Paolo.