By JEROME LAGUNZAD
As expected, promising guard Ricci Rivero ended his love affair with La Salle yesterday, dealing the Green Archers another big blow in what could be considered as one of the most challenging off-seasons for one of the UAAP powerhouse squads.
In a short but powerful tweet he posted on his official Twitter account (@RicciRivero06), Rivero, 19, expressed his gratitude to the La Sallian community for his eventful two-year stay at the Taft-based school which he helped claim the 2016 UAAP title and make another finals run last year against eventual champion Ateneo.
“All good things come to an end. Thank you to the La Sallian community for the support you’ve given me. The Animo spirit will always be with me. It’s time to move forward,” he said in a tweet that has already garnered more than 1,300 retweets and over 8,500 likes as of press time.
The latest development could be another strong punch in the collective gut of the Green Archers after reigning two-time league MVP Ben Mbala decided to turn pro last December and two-time collegiate champion mentor Aldin Ayo walked away to join University of Santo Tomas a month later.
Rivero still has three playing years left in the UAAP and his suitors are expected to line up to get his services after emerging as the Most Improved Player and being named to the Mythical Team behind his impressive performance last year when he averaged 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
The Growling Tigers, who have been very aggressive at the start of their rebuilding process under Ayo, appear to be the most logical destination so far for Rivero. The Blue Eagles and the National University Bulldogs could also be in the mix.
Rivero, along with his elder brother Prince and bosom buddy Brent Paraiso, created a stir over their falling out with the Green Archers when reports surfaced that they took a leave of absence from La Salle’s training sessions last February.
Rivero kept mum for awhile and only broke his silence a month later. He admitted that his decision to honor his prior commitments and obligations to his several endorsement deals, which runs smack to the team’s policy, was the main reason why.
Rivero, tipped as one of the future stars of Philippine basketball, also vehemently denied accusations that he tested positive for use of prohibitive drugs as well as having benefactors outside of the Green Archers’ chief supporters.
“I’m worried that my love for this sports turns into hate so I’m praying for God to heal all the pain these accusations are causing me and my family now—so I can be the same athlete that everyone expects me to be and the same Ricci that God prepares me to be,” said Rivero in an earlier statement.