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UAAP: NU's Rike glad to end 'tough year' on winning note

Troy Rike puts up a jumper against UE. Josh Albelda, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) big man Troy Rike knows he did not perform as well as he could have in his one and only season in the UAAP.

The former Wake Forest player had committed to NU after being included in the "23 for 23" list of the Gilas Pilipinas national team program. After some issues in the offseason, he was cleared to play for one season in the collegiate league.

But his eligibility woes ahead of the season would just be the start of Rike's troubles. After just his second game – against De La Salle University – Rike would be detained by immigration officials who questioned his stay in the Philippines.

"To be honest, it was one of the most mentally tough years of my life," Rike admitted on Sunday, after wrapping up his UAAP career with a win over University of the East.

"Just everything that happened – not knowing if I'm gonna play, the arrest, everything… it was really tough," he added. "I came in and I did alright in the first two games, but then, 'Oh I thought you were gonna play better' and all that stuff."

The criticisms "really got into my head," Rike admitted, and they stayed there for most of the year.

Indeed, it was not until his final game that Rike finally shone. In a no-bearing game against the Red Warriors, Rike put up 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting, his most in an NU uniform. He also grabbed 13 rebounds to register a double-double in the Bulldogs' 79-71 win.

That result gave them a 4-10 slate to finish the season, good for just seventh place.

"It was great to end the season with a win, obviously," said Rike. "To see it come together a little bit in the end is definitely a nice way to end the season that was disappointing, to be honest."

Rike said he was advised by those closest to him to simply enjoy his final game, after having already endured a difficult year.

"[They] said that just have fun, relax, just enjoy your last game in the UAAP," he said.

"I was glad that translated into something good today (Sunday)," he added. "I really was just in a better mental state, so I'm glad I can see I still have it in me."

Rike finished his one and only year in the UAAP averaging just 6.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

"I don't think I had a terrible season," he said. "But I didn't do as well as I wanted to this year."

Rike said that he did not set out to be a star, something that he maintained when he was first called up to the Gilas program.

"Ever since the fifth grade, I've never been a star," he said. "I tried to help my team with the little things to win. I think playing a different role was kind of tough for me."

"It was a tough year," Rike again acknowledged. "But I'm gonna learn. There were a lot of obstacles, but I think it's gonna make me stronger as a person."

Rike intends to take some time before deciding on his basketball future. He plans to finish his master's degree in computer science, as well as to help the National U men's basketball team in any way he can. 

The PBA D-League and the PBA loom on the horizon, but he has yet to decide if he will play there.

"I'm gonna go home, be with my family, be with my friends, recover, get my physical health where it needs to be, get my mental health where it needs to be, and then I'll evaluate," he said of his future plans.

"But I think, no matter where I go in life, facing adversity, learning is going to serve me well, no matter what I do," he added.

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