Taipei, July 4 (CNA) Filipino standout collegiate basketball player Ricci Rivero said he has chosen to start his professional career by playing in the P. LEAGUE+ as opposed to other leagues in Asia because of the sizable Philippine community in Taiwan, according to his new team the Taoyuan Pilots on Monday.
"There are nearly 150,000 Filipinos living and working in Taiwan, the mere thought of playing in front of them and being the first to represent them in one of Taiwan's best basketball leagues is already a big motivation for me to choose Taiwan over other Asian Basketball Leagues," Rivero said in a Taoyuan Pilots statement.
Although the adjustment after leaving his home country could be difficult, with the support of Filipinos in Taiwan Rivero believes he won't be alone, the statement said.
"I do not make promises, but I'll work hard. Starting my professional career in Taiwan comes with a lot of pressure, responsibility and maturity, but the decision to live there comes with no regrets because I know it will help me become better," Rivero said.
Philippine sports management agency Virtual Playground confirmed on June 24 that Rivero will be suiting up for the Pilots by showing him wearing the Pilots jersey with the caption "Ricci Rivero to Taiwan."
Since then, Rivero has generated headline news across the Philippines and Taiwan for starting his professional career by joining the P. LEAGUE+ as its first-ever world import player from Southeast Asia.
"I am deeply honored. The trust given by the Pilots to have me on their team as the very first Asian to become a World Import in the P. LEAGUE+ is also a sign of their confidence in the basketball program of the Philippines. I am excited to work hard and contribute the best way I can," Rivero said.
Rivero played in Taiwan in 2017, when he was part of the Philippine De La Salle University basketball team that played in the Buddha's Light International Association Cup, earning praise as one of the best players in the tournament.
"Back in 2017, the overwhelming acceptance of both Taiwanese and Filipinos was a memorable one. I hope I can live up to the expectation this time," Rivero said.
Rivero said he hopes Filipinos will come to his games to support both him and the Pilots.
"I am excited to be back and play for all of you. Esp. to all the Filipinos, I hope to see you in our games and cheer for the Pilots as we hustle towards that golden moment," Rivero said.
Rivero is expected to arrive in Taiwan in October, according to the Pilots.
Basketball fans in Taiwan will be closely following the performance of Rivero, the only University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) basketball player to have won championships with two different schools, after helping the University of the Philippines in May to clinch its first championship since 1986.
Rivero won his first championship during his rookie season at La Salle in 2016 and ended his UAAP career with a title for the Fighting Maroons, averaging 14.67 points, 1.33 assists, 3.33 steals, and 1.0 blocks in the finals.