By JEROME LAGUNZAD
Controversial La Salle guard Ricci Rivero joined Gilas Pilipinas training session for the first time last Monday night at the Meralco gym in Pasig City, giving himself some precious time to stay in shape after taking a leave of absence from the taft-based school.
The latest development should augur well for Rivero, 19, who can help the Nationals in his own little way as they prime up for the second window of FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers this month.
“Of course, he is a big addition (to the training pool),” Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio told Tempo-Bulletin in an SMS message yesterday, referring to the 6-foot-1 wingman, who previously attended Gilas’ practices in street clothes.
Antonio added that Rivero “was in our original list 23 for 23” but left the reigning UAAP Most Improved Player out upon the request of the Green Archers management as they start their rebuilding process under new mentor Louie Gonzalez.
While his collegiate career remains up in the air after taking a leave of absence from the Green Archers along with elder brother Prince and close buddy Brent Paraiso for violating a team rule, Ricci could be a familiar face in the Nationals’ practice from hereon.
“The (Rivero) family told us that Ricci will regularly attend (Gilas) practices,” disclosed Antonio.
Meanwhile, the Gilas Pilipinas team management and the PBA are expected to sit down anytime soon to discuss the availability of pro league players tapped by national team coach Chot Reyes for the second window of Asian qualifiers.
Antonio said he’s in constant communication with pro league chief Willie Marcial, an ardent supporter of the national team, as to when the 15-strong roster will be made available for Gilas Pilipinas’ daily practices.