Less than a week before the 81st season of the UAAP kicked off, Troy Rike was still uncertain if he could suit up for the NU Bulldogs.
Rike even had to make a quick trip to California to fix the documents necessary to make him eligible to play. In the end, his determination paid off.
"Honestly, in the past two weeks, I might have spent more time on the plane than on a basketball court. It's tough," he said. "It's been a roller-coaster, but I think it's a good thing. It's a blessing just to be able to play."
The Gilas Pilipinas cadet played for Wake Forest University prior to deciding to continue his career in the Philippines. He felt a familiar feeling when he entered the jam-packed Mall of Asia arena, but he admitted that he still needs to adjust to the brand of play in the UAAP.
"The environment, the fans, the atmosphere rival North Carolina, Duke, and everything I've been in, which is amazing," he said. "In terms of the actual game, it's different. It's an adjustment. I played games in the Filoil (tournament) but it's still different in terms of the atmosphere, the environment, and the talent level."
To jumpstart his NU stint, Rike produced six points, seven rebounds, and an assist in 15 minutes of action to help the Bulldogs secure a 75-70 win over UST. But the 6-foot-7 Rike shared that he's still trying to get comfortable to playing multiple positions with his new team.
"At Wake Forest, I've never played the five ever but to play basketball over here, it's something I have to get used to," he said. "Whatever it takes to win. If the coaches want me to play the five, the four, in a zone, I can play the three. I'm getting more comfortable [with] it."
Head coach Jamike Jarin was all praises for the maturity that Rike displayed.
"He's very smart. He's a floor spacer. He's not scared to bang bodies with people. That's the good thing about it," said Jarin. "He's the most experienced. It's what we lack right now. If you can see, he was making the right decisions every time. No forced shots."
"Of course everybody makes mistakes but if there's one good thing about him, he's consistent," he added. "He doesn't repeat his mistakes. Hopefully, he gets stronger and faster and it develops into more wins."
Rike was happy that the Bulldogs got off to a good start this season, but more than anything, he was just thankful for another opportunity to get back on the court.
"It was taken away from me and I know what it's like to feel that sadness. So now I'm just happy to be able to play basketball, be with my brothers, and play the game I love," he said. "Anytime you can get a win, you're happy. We have a really talented team. I'm happy we were able to get out on a right note."