MANILA, Philippines—Zavier Lucero has broken the bad news to his teammates: He will sit out of Game 3 of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament because of a knee injury.
Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla and Pato Gregorio, members of the UP management committee, told the Inquirer that Lucero made the announcement late Thursday during the team’s viewing session.
“I’m done,” Lucero was quoted by the two officials.
“He just gave the team our rallying cry—win it for me,” Remulla said Friday, adding that the athletic big was in tears and propped by crutches when he made the announcement.
The defending champions Maroons battle the Ateneo Blue Eagles in a winner-take-all Game 3 on Monday at 6 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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, putting on hold whatever plans he had to turn professional.
Gregorio said that the entire team cried while Lucero was speaking in front of them, with the clip of the non-contact drive where the athletic big said he heard a crack on his left knee put on pause as backdrop.
“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.
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.
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