There was plenty of anticipation for when Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao would field Kiefer Ravena during the nationals’ game against the Adelaide 36ers, Sunday.
Then, when Ravena entered the game with 3:51 left in the opening frame, the small crowd inside the Meralco Gym erupted.
Finally, the Phenom had checked in.
“Actually, nagkita-kita kami kanina nila Paul [Lee] and Beau [Belga] bago nito at inamin ko sa kanila na kinakabahan ako. Hindi ko alam yung mararamdaman ko,” admitted the 25-year-old guard.
“Reading social media, lahat sila nakatutok sa’yo. Hindi ko rin alam yung papakita ko,” he continued.
“It’s nice na narinig ko na sa kanila na ‘nagawa mo na yan dati, na nakapaglaro ka na sa big stage dati’.”
Ever since high school, Ravena has always had pressure riding on his shoulders.
During his first year in Ateneo High back in 2007, Ravena became the first freshman to immediately crack the school’s Team A team. He led the Blue Eagles to three championships.
In college, he joined Ateneo right when the Blue Eagles were eyeing a rare feat – winning five straight championships. And he helped Ateneo win the UAAP Season 74 and 75 titles, while being crowned the Most Valuable Player in his final two years.
This time around, though, he has a huge task at hand. His first competitive game in 18 months will be with Gilas Pilipinas during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Moreover, he is assigned to fill the shoes left by two-time Best Point Guard in Asia, Jayson Castro.
“This pressure is different from everything I’ve felt siguro.”
But the pressure eased for Ravena when he made his first layup against Adelaide.
It came nine seconds into the second quarter. And once the shot went in, he let loose, uncorking five more points to chop a 16-point lead down to nine.
“Making my first layup felt really good. I was able to break the ice in terms of me reintroducing myself to competitive basketball,” expressed Ravena.
Ravena ended up with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in just 17 minutes of game time. However, Gilas lost in its final tuneup, 75-85.
“Sayang natalo, but there were a lot of good things we were able to pick up. We need to start strong kasi kanina naunahan kami. They were able to control the game. We fought until the end,” he lamented.
Still, Ravena – one of the most cerebral guards in the game today – picked up many lessons that he hopes the team carries to the global meet, which begins on Saturday, August 31.
“We can’t have bad starts, mas lalo sa World Cup. Mabilis ang laro dun at wala nang butaw na team. Everybody has an equal chance to make it to the next round,” he said with optimism in his eyes.
“Our sole focus is the first game which is Italy on the 31st, so yan lang kailangan namin gawin.”