UP Strong: Packed venue gives Paul Desiderio dream ending to his UAAP career
MANILA, Philippines–The face of University of the Philippines’ “atin to!” mantra is ready to bring his show to the big leagues.
Paul Desiderio, the heart and soul of the Fighting Maroons for the better of two years, said he’s planning to enter the upcoming PBA Draft after his inspiring collegiate career ended in bittersweet fashion.
“I think I’ll go for it since I don’t have anything to do,” said Desiderio after UP concludes its UAAP campaign with a 99-81 loss to Ateneo in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball finals Wednesday at the packed Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Desiderio averaged 13.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.3 steals in his final year with the Fighting Maroons and as the captain that led the team to their first finals series since UP became the champion in 1986.
UP’s captain also penned a farewell letter, showing gratitude for the school that embraced him for six years.
“To the management, coaches, teammates, and UP community, thank you for the six years. We had a lot of struggles, admit it or not, we were always at the end of insults from other schools when it comes to basketball,” wrote Desiderio in Filipino.
Desiderio’s first season with UP ended in a 0-14 humiliation but the Fighting Maroons slowly developed one of the more respected basketball programs of the UAAP.
“I used to sit on the bench and watch my season go by winless, loss after loss. But I dreamt that in my last game the venue would be filled. Today, that dream became a reality. I’m not wishing for anything else at the end of my college career.
My biggest trophy was not the championship; it was seeing this community as one. It’s not 16 strong anymore, it’s the whole community strong. #UPStrong. This is your captain, Paul Desiderio, signing off.”
Despite playing a reduced role to MVP Bright Akhuetie and sometimes Season 80 Rookie of the Year Juan Gomez De Liaño, Desiderio was undoubtedly UP’s spirit that embodied the fighting heart of the Maroons.
He coined the “atin to!” declaration way back in UP’s opening game in Season 80 before he drilled the game-winner in the Fighting Maroons’ 74-71 win over University of Santo Tomas.
Desiderio also he made sure that UP would get into the finals despite having a twice-to-win disadvantage against third seed Adamson University in the Final Four.
Shooting 2-of-18 the whole do-or-die game against the Soaring Falcons, Desiderio decided that the biggest shots of that match was his, scoring UP’s last five points in its 89-87 win over Adamson.
“Of course I’m sad that I’ll be leaving and you guys won’t see me here next year, you all will miss me,” said Desiderio. “I’m happy that we got to the finals because nobody expected us to be here.”
“People were also saying that we almost don’t have a chance in the Final Four but the impossible became possible and I’m happy we got into the finals.”
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