Kiefer Ravena — who has been with the Gilas program since he was 17 years old — admitted that he was surprised with the level of competition during his debut with the seniors team last Friday, when SMART Gilas Pilipinas faced Japan.
“Kahit ako nagulat eh,” admitted the 24-year-old, who finished with just one point, two rebounds, and an assist during the Philippines’ 77-71 win. “Sabi ko na lang kailangan talaga you have to suck it up and just contribute. If I can’t score or I’m not the main scorer of the team, I have to make stops, try to get steals, try to get easy points on lay-ups.”
Playing off the bench and providing spark were the roles previously played by scoring sensation Terrence Romeo. Romeo was not able to suit up for the first window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers due to a right knee injury.
With this, Ravena needed to at least supply the same energy that Romeo provides to the team.
After the game, Ravena shared that he received a random text.
“Nagulat ako, Terrence gave me a suprise text. Sabi niya, I need to stay composed mas lalo sa mga ganitong laro,” Ravena told Tiebreaker Times.
“Nung pinapanood ko kasi siya parang hindi siya e,” Romeo added during the Chooks-to-Go-hosted thanksgiving dinner for the team.
“Sabi ko lang, let the game come to him.”
Come the Chinese-Taipei game on Monday evening, Ravena showed why he is the Phenom.
SMART Gilas was down by as much as 5-19 before the skipper of Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas — together with June Mar Fajardo, Roger Pogoy, and Romeo’s favorite running-mate Calvin Abueva — was plugged into the game. And the quintet created magic on the court, slowly chipping down Chinese-Taipei’s lead, with Ravena providing seven markers during that spurt.
“Well I just tried to contribute in whatever way I can, whether playing defense with the point guard just to make sure when Kuya Jayson [Castro] rests, ‘di dumidikit kalaban or humahabol kami,” said the second overall pick in the 2017 PBA Draft.
“We’re just about giving energy, kami nina Calvin, nina Pogoy. Yun naman yung role namin sa team.”
Ravena finished the game with nine points on 2-for-5 shooting from the field, 5-for-6 from the foul stripe to go along with five assists. His outing drew praise from the best point guard in Asia himself, Jayson Casro.
“Sobrang ganda ng laro ni Kiefer. Actually isa siya sa mga nag-change ng laro, pati si June Mar. Sana magtuloy-tuloy na kasi nakuha na niya rhythm niya,” Castro remarked after SMART Gilas’ 90-83 win.
But the person who was more proud of Ravena than Castro was Romeo himself, who had been sitting in the patron section, cheering wildly with the crowd.
“Proud na proud talaga ako sa kanya.”
23 for 2023 cadets fill up Gilas practice
With just 31 days until the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, only 10 players from the pool attended the team’s third session, Monday evening at the Meralco Gym.
Suiting up in the session presided over by Coach Chot Reyes were June Mar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Jio Jalalon, Mac Belo, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, and Roger Pogoy. Carl Cruz and Jayson Castro were in attendance but were in street clothes.
Not present were Matthew Wright, Japeth Aguilar, and Allein Maliksi. Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan have yet to attend practice.
Joining the seniors team to prep them up for the World Cup Qualifiers were 10 players from the 23 for 2023 pool.
Ateneo Blue Eagle Matt Nieto attended his first Gilas practice. Joining him were teammates Isaac Go and Thirdy Ravena.
Completing the night’s cast were CJ Perez, Abu Tratter, Will Gozum, J-jay Alejandro, Arvin Tolentino, and Juan Gomez de Liano. Joshua Sinclair watched from the sidelines as he is still recovering from an ACL injury.
Gilas will take on Australia in Melbourne on February 22. The Philippine will then host Japan three days later at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Thirdy Ravena looks to make up for lost time with Kiefer in Gilas
Brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena are close off the court. On the court, however, they missed one last ride together with the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles back in 2015.
During Kiefer’s final year of eligibility in the UAAP, Thirdy was declared ineligible due to not making the Ateneo’s grade quota for student-athletes.
Three years later, the two were again on the same court. And this time, they were not opponents in a tune-up game, but were both part of the Gilas pool. Kiefer is part of the seniors pool for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, while Thirdy is with the 23 for 2023 cadets.
“Basketball is a very small world. Alam niyo naman yun.
“You’ll never know who’ll your encounter in your professional career once again,” shared Kiefer, who is now a rookie with the NLEX Road Warriors.
For Thirdy, even if he was named as the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Finals Most Valuable Player, his inclusion to the pool was unexpected. Moreover, he admitted that the moment he stepped on the court of the Meralco Gym on Monday night felt surreal.
“Unang una di ko mapaniwalaan na napili ako kasama dun sa 23. Dati pinapanood ko lang yung Gilas maglaro internationally, hindi ko ma-imagine na nandun na ako sa possible listahan for possible candidates for 2023,” reflected Thirdy, who is four years younger than Kiefer. “It’s a blessing pero it’s also something I should work hard for.
“It’s also added inspiration, added motivation, to represent the country at the highest level of basketball kasi hindi lahat nabibigyan ng ganung chance. Suwerte na ako na maganda yung timing. It’s an honor na napili ako ng mga coaches atsaka nung management.”
Making it extra special for him is the possibility of playing side-by-side with Kiefer once more to make up for the time they had a chance to play together three years ago. His older brother has been dubbed as one of the cornerstones of the Gilas program in the next five years by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
“At least ngayon nabigyan kami ng chance makalaro with each other,” expressed Thirdy. “Kasi sa Ateneo na-miss ko last chance so ngayon parang bonus sa akin na may isa pa akong teammate atsaka kapatid ko pa. Parang natuturuan niya pa ako more than ng pina-practice namin atsaka nabibigyan pa niya ako ng tips while practicing.
“Blessing din nga na naging part kami ng pool, parehas kami.”
Kiefer, on the other hand, is just glad that he and his brother have been given this opportunity to play, train, and even go up against each other.
“Just being in the pool, just being in the same vicinity with Thirdy, it’s really kind of still new to me,” the two-time UAAP MVP confessed. “By the time I got used to being with him in Ateneo, next thing you know he wasn’t going to play next year. It’s something na I’ll get used to. In the long run, whether sa 2023 pa sila makakalaro, dun pa ako makakasali, dun ko siya magiging teammate, it’s fine.
“I’m sure it’s gonna be worth the wait for me and my parents.”
Gabe Norwood can’t wait for 2023
It was unusual to see Gabe Norwood — clad in a black coat, white long sleeves underneath, and a pair of black slim-fit slacks — come in late for Gilas Pilipinas practice on Monday at the Meralco Gym. But he had a valid reason for his attire and his tardiness.
“I got a close friend who had a wedding anniversary. I had to make sure I was there for the surprise,” he explained.
What Gilas’ captain saw inside the facility was unusual, too. Gilas’ pool for the second window of the FIBA World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers consists of only 15 players, but the number of players on the court was around 30.
Norwood admittedly did not know that the young 23 for 2023 cadets were also in attendance Monday night.
“I didn’t know the young guys were gonna be in, so I walked in late, I looked over and there was about 30 people in here,” a proud Norwood shared.
The veteran internationalist saw yet another generation of Gilas. And in that moment, the 32-year-old Filipino-American couldn’t help but look back on how the program has evolved, from its inception in 2007 up to now.
“It’s awesome to know that I’ve been a part of the program for so long and really see it grow and see where it’s going. It’s pretty awesome,” said Norwood, who has been with the Nationals since 2007 and has won two FIBA Asia silver medals.
Norwood, along with his fellow Gilas veterans, was able to see those young guns play as head coach Chot Reyes made them participate. Based on what he saw, the 10-year pro was very satisfied.
“The biggest thing for me was when we actually put in the offense, it seems like everybody picked it up pretty quick,” he shared. “Everybody seemed to come out and picked it up quick, and guys weren’t afraid to ask questions and learn.
“So I mean, if you’re willing to learn at this point, you’re in good shape.”
It has been said many times that the future of Philippine basketball is bright with the fresh talent Gilas has right now. And for Norwood, he himself is excited for how the young ones will fare against the world’s finest come the 2023 Worlds.
“I’ll be cheering from the stands, cheering my head off,” assured Norwood, who will be 38 by then.
“But I’m really excited for the group, who knows who’s gonna be in, playing here in Manila, so it should be an exciting time.”
23 for 2023 cadets join Gilas pool in first practice for 2018
It was a star-studded night in the Meralco Gym Monday evening as the best of the best in Philippine basketball converged for Gilas Pilipinas’ first session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
With the Qualifiers just 44 days away, 11 players were present.
Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Allein Maliksi, Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy, Mac Belo, Kevin Alas, Jio Jalalon, Japeth Aguilar, and Jayson Castro attended the practice.
Gabe Norwood arrived at around 8:29 in the evening.
Matthew Wright did not participate in the night’s drills as his club team Phoenix Fuel Masters had a game last Sunday.
Not present were June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, and Raymond Almazan.
Joining the night’s cast were the young guns that will hopefully be part of the Gilas team in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Collegiate champions Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena, Javee Mocon, Robert Bolick, and Kemark Carino headlined the cast. Joining them are Paul Desiderio, J-jay Alejandro, Juan Gomez De Liano, Will Gozum, CJ Perez, Arvin Tolentino, and Jeo Ambohot.
Joshua Sinclair was present but in street clothes. He is still recovering from an ACL tear.
Each player were introduced and formally presented with their Gilas jersey by SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, chairman Al Panlilio, vice chairman Robbie Puno, executive director Sonny Barios, and senator Sonny Angara.
Even if he is not part of the 23 dor 2023 list, Ricci Rivero was on the sidelines as a visitor.
The night’s session was led by coach Chot Reyes and assistant coaches Jong Uichico, Jimmy Alapag, Josh Reyes, and Ryan Betia.
The Philippines will face Australia at the Margaret Court Arena on February 22. Three days later, the country will host Japan at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
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