‘Upside Down’ with Ricci Rivero

IF you don’t watch Stranger Things—shame on you if you don’t—there’s the real world. And The Upside Down where the world has turned topsy-turvy and dark. Right now, Ricci Rivero’s life is in his version of the Upside Down.

Rivero went up the escalator of the Crowne Plaza. He stood them for a minute. Unsure of where he was to go. There was a presser to announce Kobe Paras’s being back home to play for the national team and if possible, turn pro, and it wasn’t clear for Rivero where the announcement was to be made.

We eventually found the venue and the youngster took a deep breath before entering. Into the lion’s den….

“Time to face the music,” he muttered.

Yet like that momentary confusion, the young basketball player did divulge that he hadn’t made a decision on what school he was transferring. “In a few months,” he merely said. “Right now, I want to concentrate on playing for the national team. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”

Rivero’s world spun out of its axis over a variety of issues with his former school. “I was blind-sided,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming.”

Rivero admitted to having a small circle of friends and confidants. And in the wake of the problems of his estrangement from his former school, it has shrunk even more. He even shut down his social-media accounts. “If I need to post something, I let other people do it for me,” he revealed. “I don’t read anything out there.”

Whether ignorance is bliss, Rivero right now is trying to tilt his world back to a semblance of where it was. “It isn’t going to be easy,” he admitted.

Previously, he’d be smiling. Perhaps in the presence of all these media, hungry for a quote, ready to pounce on anything click-bait, the young basketeer was cautious. Guarded. His words measured. But there was pain in his face no matter how he tried hard to mask it. After all, he is young and is still trying to grasp the big bad world outside.

I asked him if the order for him now is redemption. “I don’t think so,” is all he can say. He is grasping for the right words.

Rivero said he couldn’t wait to get on the basketball court. It is the one place where he feels most secure outside his own home. He’s learned all these years to block out the white noise. The static of a social media-mad world.

Yet, even suiting up for the Gilas Cadets will offer no respite. For the young nationals will be participating in the upcoming Filoil Flying V Pre-Season Cup. Gilas is in the same bracket as his former school. So inevitably, they will cross paths. The matchup will be keenly anticipated.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” he said in a measured tone when asked about that matchup. In the same breath, he added, “That place [his former school] is my second home so I have only good words to say.”

“Right now, I am excited. I have all these new teammates on the national team and I really wanted to play for Gilas,” he said. “I haven’t played for the national team since the Under-16 team. So I am excited. Especially with guys like Kobe and everyone else…. It has been a dream of mine for the longest time to play for the senior national team.”

What happens when a dream dies?

“You dream another dream,” Ricci Rivero said. He now managed a smile.

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Turning Points 2018