Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) 48th annual draft welcomed a familiar face in the University of the Philippines’ Fighting Maroon, Ricci Rivero. Ayala Malls Market! Market!’s Activity Center bore witness to the roars from those in attendance last September 17, 2023, as Rivero etched the next chapter in his young hooping career.
A once college breakout star and promising professional prospect, his career took a slight detour, though his hooping prowess and influence remain undeniable.
A star on the collegiate level
Youtube: One Sports
Rivero would inject his influence on a championship-caliber program in his collegiate debut season, claiming De La Salle University’s (DLSU) ninth University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) championship. Initially deemed a reliable option in former Coach Alvin Ayo’s deep rotation, his star shone the brightest with the departure of his senior counterpart, Jeron Teng.
DLSU’s “Mayhem” Mentality flourished with Rivero assuming a starting role, averaging 14.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.7 steals, bound for Mythical Five glory. Despite receiving the tournament’s Most Improved Player honors, the Green Archers would succumb to their Katipunan rivals in the finals, as the Sta. Mesa, Manila native would depart from the program, together with his older brother, Prince, post UAAP Season 80 due to a suspension from the university.
Diliman would take in the Green Archer nomad for the remainder of his three-year playing eligibility, donning University of the Philippines’ maroon-green threads. He redshirted his junior year, abiding by league regulations, exemplifying hints of his on-court craftsmanship through a semi-final finish in the following season.
Despite receiving offers to play professionally overseas, he decided to forgo the opportunity as the path to the promised land unfolded. After a 36-year drought, the Fighting Maroon ensemble captured the championship in his final season, culminated by a JD Cagulangan heave beyond the arc in overtime.
National and international representation
Beyond his classification as an elite collegiate prospect, the 25-year-old’s experience in international competition places promise on an extensive resume. Rivero joined fellow classmen in the Nationals U-16’s flawless SEABA Championship campaign and continued his Gilas Pilipinas tenure through his consideration for its “23 for 23” cadets pool, which was short-lived due to DLSU’s request for his removal from the lineup.
Rivero’s “go-to-guy” persona translated on the 3×3 floor. He participated in the 2015 U15 World Championships and 2018 U23 World Cup for the Philippines, though was sidelined in the tournament’s 2019 Asia Cup due to an ankle injury in the opener versus Thailand.
Venturing towards the local scene, he signed a short-term contract with Blackwater’s 3×3 affiliate in February 2023 before submitting his candidacy for the association’s draft in September.
Finally, a member of the league
Youtube: PBA Official
Relinquishing an overseas opportunity in Taiwan’s P. League+ in 2022 due to ankle issues, Philippine basketball’s prodigal son finds his way back to the hardwood, taking the road less traveled for a highly awaited professional debut.
The PBA welcomed the nation’s largest draft pool to date, as the 6’1” guard went 17th (picked fifth in the second round) selected by the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters. Rivero’s two-way ability joins seven fellow new signees to supplement Coach Jamike Jarin’s youthful roster, expressing his excitement with a sense of familiarity.
“Just excited kasi sina Coach Jamike (Jarin) yung kasama ko. I’ve been with Coach Jamike ever since noong high-school ako, so at some point aware na ako sa mga gusto ni Coach Jamike and yung hindi, so mas papadali din. Excited lang ako na kung ano man yung hilingin nila saakin, bibigay ko sa kanila.”
(I’m excited to play under Coach Jamike once more. I’ve grown to learn his expectations as his player in high school. Whatever my team asks of me, I’m sure I’ll be able to deliver on my end.)