Even after missing the cut in the national team’s final 12-man unit for the Asian Games in Indonesia, Ricci Rivero was grateful for getting the chance to practice with Yeng Guiao and other PBA players.
“Sobrang thankful talaga ako na yun nga naging part ako nito,” Rivero told media during a Smart-backed practice at the Meralco Gym yesterday. “Nung una pa lang naman na narinig ko, sobrang thankful na ako. Gusto ko siyempre makasama, pero siyempre ‘di ba PBA players na ‘yan and hindi naman sila basta-basta.”
He was one of three players left out by coach Yeng Guiao from the lineup, joining TNT KaTropa’s Don Trollano and fellow Gilas cadet Kobe Paras.
“I talked to coach Yeng sabi ko, ‘Sobrang thank you for this opportunity.’ “Sobrang dami kong natutunan. First, ‘yung mga kuya and then next sina coach Yeng kasi sobrang hands on nila,” he said.
“Si coach Yeng kasi nakikita ko sobrang galing niyang mag-develop ng player, in a short time sobrang dami kong natutunan sa kanya,” he added.
Rivero was present in all five practice sessions and even rushed into one session after flying from a camp in Serbia with the UP Fighting Maroons.
He admitted that the contrasting differences in practices with the pros compared to his practices with his new university often took him by surprise, but credited veterans all around him for keeping him grounded during the whole ordeal.
“’Yung transition from UP to here, sobrang iba. Sobrang iba ‘yung training ng PBA kasi sa college, matakbo pa, may mga press at maraming plays. Sa PBA, sobrang basic na lang tapos more on reads na lang talaga,” he bared.
“While playing with them, kinakausap nila ako. Sina kuya Paul (Lee)… lalo na kapag may mali ako, nagbibigay sila ng advice na ganito ang gawin ko o mas okay ata next time if ganito gawin ko. Sobrang nakakatulong ‘yon,” he added.
Experience and learnings aren’t the only intangibles that Rivero is taking with him, though. He even earned an invite to practice with the NLEX Road Warriors from coach Yeng Guiao, who lauded the 20-year-old guard’s work ethic and skillset.
“Sabi niya, ‘I’m impressed’. For me as a college player tapos sabihan ka ni coach Yeng Guiao ng ganoon, sobrang taas ng level na ‘to,” he said.