Isaiah Rivera’s family ties to the Dominican Republic gave him a sense of what the country was like.

Isaiah Rivera’s family ties to the Dominican Republic gave him a sense of what the country was like.

However, spending some time there on his own gave Isaiah an intimate look at the country where his father spent his childhood.

Geneseo’s Rivera traveled to the Dominican Republic and was selected to be a member of the FIBA U17 World Cup team.

It was Rivera’s first trip abroad playing the game he loves, but the trip was about more than just basketball.

During the selection process and training, Rivera was able to explore the country where his dad, Elvin, grew up.

Rivera was able to visit the stadium where his dad would have played his first professional baseball game, but he also saw the issues of poverty and disparity of wealth the developing country faced.

“It taught me a lot about being thankful for everything you have in America,” Rivera said. “It’s a whole different world down there.”

After he was contacted about potentially joining the Dominican team, things moved quickly for Rivera.

He traveled to the Dominican Republic in June, and after the team was finalized, made a 10-hour flight to compete in the World Cup, in Santa Fe, Argentina.

With the team, Rivera had to strike a balance between letting the game come to him and finding a way to earn their trust.

When the team went out together, the players were treated like celebrities.

“People would ask for pictures with you,” Rivera said. “It’s the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid.”

Playing AAU basketball has given Rivera an opportunity to play against some of the best young players in the United States, but this was a whole new level of competition, in Santa Fe.

“It wasn’t just kids from the United States, it was the best kids in the world,” Rivera said. “It was a great opportunity to put my name in that kind of category.”

The Dominicans won their final three games in the tournament landing ninth which is the highest the team has ever finished.

“Going into the locker room and celebrating was really cool,” Rivera said. “Especially after the last game, it’s special knowing that a whole country has your back and wanted us to do well.”

In seven games, Rivera averaged 10.4 points-per-game, the third highest on the team, and he averaged 4.3 rebounds-per-game, the fourth highest total on his team.

Now, Rivera is focused on getting back to hitting the hardwood with the Quad City Elite team and looking at college offers.

With recent offers from New Mexico, St. John’s, Drake and Loyola, Rivera has a lot of powerhouse schools to choose between.

Rivera still has time and someone to guide him with longtime friend DJ Carton having just committed to play for Ohio State.

“He’s always been there,” Rivera said. “We grew up together and push each other to get better.”

Rivera believes those kinds of relationships are just as valuable on the court and something he wants to help cultivate at Geneseo.

“If you have a close team off the court, it’s going to elevate the team’s game,” Rivera said.

This kind of mentality shows Rivera has a really strong sense of who he is.