Kiefer Ravena happy to be back on the court and ready to answer Gilas’ call
Santino Honasan on Jun 25, 2019 05:47 AM
“It’s two months away from the World Cup, but sabi ko nga kanina, if sixteen months went by so fast, I’m pretty sure two months will go by without us even noticing it.” - Kiefer Ravena
After a year and half away from basketball activities, Kiefer Ravena finally made his return to the court, participating in the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team’s practice at the Meralco Gym, Monday evening.
Ravena was one of 13 players present in what Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao called their ‘best practice so far’ as they prepare for the upcoming 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in China this coming August 31st.
While Ravena is still serving an 18-month FIBA-imposed suspension for failing a random drug test in 2018, the star guard was allowed to re-join practice Monday, and he couldn’t be any more happy.
“Very very happy, it’s been a while since I’ve played organized basketball,” Ravena told ABS-CBN Sports. “I just can’t wait to put on that jersey, and yung nabigay pa sa akin na jersey, number 15, so it’s mixed emotions for me, being away from this sport for so long, and I’m just glad to be around these guys again.”
It has been a long, long wait for Ravena, and if you follow him on Twitter, you’d know that he has been counting down the days until he can finally put on a jersey and lace up a pair of sneakers once more.
“Oo, alam ko na nga kung paano mag-multiply kung ilang araw sa tatlong buwan, apat na buwan sa kaka-countdown ko eh, but it’s something that helped me cope with the things I’ve missed sa laro, and I guess it’s just natural for you to really look forward to something na matagal ko nang inaantay,” he said.
On the floor, the 25-year old former UAAP champion and MVP with the Ateneo Blue Eagles looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat, and Coach Yeng was the first to point that out.
“You saw him in practice today, it’s just like he did not miss the last, or he was not suspended, for the last one and a half years. His sharpness is there, his stamina is there, he does not look like he’s heavy, that’s his natural body, so things are looking good at this point,” Guiao said in a post-practice scrum with the media.
Staying sharp and staying in shape, Ravena says, is all about being mentally tough. After all, staying on point while on the shelf is no easy task.
“You just have to be tough talaga, you just have to be mentally tough than everybody else, you just have to find a way to compete, it’s a competition, you fight for your spots.”
Ravena added that being someone Coach Yeng is counting on to step in and fill the role of a Gilas legend such as Jayson Castro is also a big source of motivation. The 32-year old Castro recently begged off from National Team duty to focus on his family.
“I didn’t want to let Coach Yeng down, with what he’s been saying, the soon that I’ll be back, the sooner I’ll be able to fill Jayson’s spots sa floor, and it’s going to be a long process, but it’s a good motivator for me, my coach saying na it felt like I didn’t skip a beat and I haven’t been gone, but again, it’s a long process.”
With Castro giving way, the role of primary playmaker for Gilas is wide open, and Ravena is without a doubt gunning for that place on the team.
“Yeah, of course. Again, as an ultra-competitive guy, you want to compete for that spot.”
And while Castro’s presence and contributions to the National Team is irreplaceable, Ravena believes that the man who is widely regarded as Asia’s Best Point guard has earned the right to beg off from National Team duty, especially after all the years that he has given to the tri-colors
“I’ve been with Jayson in the National Team for the past two years, I’ve definitely learned a lot, learned the ropes from him, and I’m just so happy to be mentored by Jayson, I’m just so happy for him that he’s finally having peace of mind with the decision that he made in not joining and really prioritizing his family because he just recently just got married, and sabi ko nga kanina, out of all the people that has the right to say ‘beg off lang ako, for this time lang,’ I think it’s time for the younger guys to step up and for him to say that everybody’s ready, and yun nga, ang may karapatan lang nun is Jayson.”
More than just a former teammate, Ravena considers Castro a mentor, and states that the biggest lesson he has learned from “The Blur” is playing for the name in the front of the jersey, rather than the name at the back.
“Biggest kong natutunan from Jayson is yung pagiging selfless niya,” Ravena shared. “We know that he can score the ball any time of the day, but he’s always put the team in front of him, more than anything else.”
“He’s won that Best Point Guard in Asia a couple of times for a reason, not because he was the top scorer of the team, but he helped the team win, reach the Finals, won a couple of championships, won a couple of gold medals, that’s why he’s won that award, and for him, and knowing Jayson that he would give any of those individual awards for any gold medal any time of the day, yun siguro yung pinaka-malaking natutunan ko from Jayson,” he continued.
Castro’s presence in the National Team will surely be missed, by the team and the fans alike, but Guiao has faith that his former number two draft pick also has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of top Pinoy playmakers like Castro and Jimmy Alapag.
Hearing high praise such as that, Ravena says, is a shot of much-needed confidence, especially after being away from the sport for so long.
“Siyempre, nakaka-taas ng kumpiyansa, kasi confidence is something that I really need now, kasi matagal nga akong nawala eh, so any confidence that I can get, from my teammates, from my coaching staff, whoever, will definitely help me a lot to get me to where I was before faster, diba? So hearing that from him, yun nga, it’s process that I’m willing to undergo and talagang work had, times two, times three talaga yung trabaho.”
“I’m willing to go through that just to not let Coach Yeng down with the things that he’s said. I owe a lot of things to Coach Yeng. He’s my head coach sa National Team and he’s my head coach sa NLEX. I’m here for he win, I here for that medal in the World Cup, and kahit ano siguro ang sabihin ng tao, we’re joining that to win the World Cup, not just for experience,” he added.
With nearly 500 days in the books, Ravena still has two more months before he can really get on a court and compete, which isn’t really too much time left to wait, considering how many days he’s already gotten through.
Ravena’s suspension ends officially ends on August 24th.
“It’s two months away from the World Cup, but sabi ko nga kanina, if sixteen months went by so fast, I’m pretty sure two months will go by without us even noticing it.”