Propped up by crutches and his eyes all welled up, Zavier Lucero on Thursday night summed up his role—or lack of it—for University of the Philippines (UP) in Game 3 of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament Finals.
“I’m done,” Lucero was quoted as saying during a team film viewing session Thursday, where he completely broke down. “I won’t be able to help you guys out there. I didn’t want it (collegiate career) to end this way, but I will be there to cheer you on.”
He then asked his fellow Maroons for one thing: “Win it for me.”
Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla and Pato Gregorio, members of the UP management committee, narrated that scene to the Inquirer over the phone as the Maroons will prepare for the rubber match set at 6 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Monday with Lucero unavailable.
The 6-foot-7 forward, as confirmed by MRI tests done late Wednesday after a 66-56 loss to Ateneo, tore his left ACL and could be out for at least a year, his promising pro career sure to be put on hold while also failing to end his collegiate stint on his terms.
“He just gave the team our rallying cry—win it for me,” Remulla said, adding that the team practiced Friday minus Lucero.
Gregorio said that the entire team cried while Lucero spoke, against the backdrop of a paused clip of the noncontact drive where the athletic big said he heard a crack on his left knee.
“He basically gave the team the motivation it needs, even if we will be one player down,” Gregorio said.
Born from a Mexican father and a Filipino mother, Lucero is considered by his family as the “lucky” child after the family gained some stability on the year he was born.
Remulla, who has had long talks with the cager’s parents, said Lucero’s name was supposed to be “Savior” because of all the good fortune the family had when he was conceived.
Lucero was, indeed, the Maroons’ savior in a 72-66 series-opening win, his block on the towering Ange Kouame in the winning seconds sealing the deal.
But that luck turned ugly in Game 2.
This will be the second injury to a major cog at UP this year after CJ Cansino also suffered an MCL tear last season. But unlike Lucero, Cansino still has some playing years left and will definitely be there for the Maroons next year, possibly again as their leader on the floor.
Cansino, the transferee from University of Santo Tomas, was there to buoy up his ex-teammates during lulls, telling them to keep a positive attitude even while they were playing so bad that losing Game 2 was inevitable early.
The Maroons will have two cheerleaders with supreme talents on the bench come Monday, and if UP won last year with one of them on the bench, who knows what two stars trying to perk up those on the court can do?
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.