‘Not done’: Now that UP is in Final Four, Paul Desiderio not letting this chance slip
If there’s one man who knows the real hardships of University of the Philippines’ long road back to the Final Four, that’s outgoing guard Paul Desiderio.
The Cebuano gunner has experienced both utmost heartbreak and absolute euphoria since joining the team in 2013.
After a miserable 0-14 season, Desiderio witnessed how the Fighting Maroons slowly improved their winning totals but still miss out on the Final Four like in Season 80 when they finished fifth with a 6-8 card.
But with UP ending a 21-year drought in the Final Four, Desiderio is excited to show that UP truly belongs in the elite company in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament.
“Of course I’m excited for my first Final Four and we still have a chance to enter the championship and we’ll do everything in our power to fulfill that,” said Desiderio in Filipino Thursday at the Maroons’ training facility at Epsilon Chi Center in UP Diliman.
Desiderio, who went to University of Visayas in high school, said he was aware of UP’s reputation when arrived in Metro Manila for his collegiate career.
Still, he took on the challenge of improving UP’s lackluster basketball program.
“This was the challenge for me when I got here, I know we lacked some star players and we didn’t have a dominant big man but I knew we would get this chance to prove to everyone, and to ourselves, that we are winners,” said Desiderio.
Desiderio put the Fighting Maroons on his back in Season 80 when he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists en route to becoming the first Maroon since Marvin Cruz in 2006 to be named to the Mythical Team.
And although he’s been relegated to the team’s second and sometimes third offensive option, Desiderio still has the fire that made him on of the most beloved Maroons of his era.
“We’re not done, there’s still work to be done,” said Desiderio. “We still have to play in the Final Four to get our chance at the Finals and we will grab that opportunity.”