With the UAAP basketball season fast approaching, the Ateneo Blue Eagles are looking to bring the trophy back to Katipunan. Led by newly-minted Smart Elite ambassadors, Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, as well as re-tooling their roster with numerous rookies, Ateneo has the makings of a title contender this season.
In an interview with Tiebreaker Times, Ravena and Pessumal shared how they plan on facing their final year in the UAAP.
As the two seniors begin their final year in the UAAP, mixed feelings of excitement as well as nervousness crawl through their skins. For Pessumal, this marks the beginning of the end of his long run as an Ateneo basketball player. Ravena, on the other hand, can’t wait for the experience, but hopes it doesn’t end too soon.
“I’m a little bit excited and nervous at the same time, as well as a little bit sad. I’ve been playing for Ateneo for the past… I don’t know, since I was a kid. This will be my last time that I’ll get to play in the UAAP,” shared Pessumal.
“It’s a mix of everything. It’s something that you want to start, but don’t want to end. It’s my last year, and hopefully we can pull off a championship,” added Ravena.
The two graduating players also shared that they always talk with each other, even more so now that it’s their last year to play for Ateneo.
For Pessumal, talking with Kiefer and the rest of the graduating batch helped him realize the gravity of the situation that they’re in. There’ll be no more second chances for them, and this is their last chance for a championship.
“We always talk about it. Sometimes it’s serious talk, sometimes it’s jokingly, but we always talk about it. I think the more we talk about it, the more we realize that this is really it. We’re going to start our last year in the UAAP and after this we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Kiefer also chimed in, adding that their discussions are a big help not only to them, but to the team as well.
“We always have those conversations. ‘Ano pwede namin gawin? Ano kailangan namin gawin para manalo? Ano yung dapat namin gawin since it’s our last year? How do we lead by example? How do we lead the young guys?’ Pinag-uusapan talaga namin kasi ayaw namin mag-sisi in the end sa mga hindi namin ginawa.”
The growth of the team’s rookies is important for Pessumal and Ravena as well. The Blue Eagles boast eight rookies in their lineup, with a few of them expected to play heavy minutes. Former Bullpup Hubert Cani, UAAP Juniors MVP Jerie Pingoy, as well as foreign-student athlete Chibueze Ikeh, are expected to make an immediate impact on their first season as a Blue Eagle.
“I think there’s two parts of being a good leader, it’s vocally and through example, and I try to do it both. Vocally, I try to give words of encouragement once in a while. With my work ethic, I want to show them that to get better you really have to work hard. Nothing is given to you. Every one here were star players in high school, me, Kief, Pingoy and Cani. We were all star players in high school. but there comes a time when you get to a saturation point if you don’t work hard. You just really have to work hard everyday,” said Pessumal.
“Of course. Kailangan talaga nila yun eh. Marami mawawala sa amin after this season, not just players, but experience-wise. Ito lang maiiwan namin sa kanila, so kailangan namin tutukan yung mga bata.”
The two Ateneans also mentioned just how much they want to win the championship this year. Pessumal is out to prove that despite losing the members of the five-peat era, Ateneo still has what it takes to reach the top.
“This year, like every year, I have something to prove. Not just to myself, but to everybody. I want to win at the end of the day. That’s always been my goal every time I step on the basketball court. This year it’s a win or go home situation for me, Kiefer, and the rest of the graduating guys,” said Pessumal. “We didn’t win the past two years, so I think we really have to win this one. I want to prove that despite losing coach Norman and losing the key players from the five-peat season that we’re still a good team and we can do it without them.”
Meanwhile, Kiefer wants to leave a good legacy to the community and the people who have supported him from day-one.
“Since it’s my last year wala na, kailangan magpakamatay na talaga. Wala na akong sasabihin na ‘bawi tayo next year’ since I’ll be moving to a different chapter after this season. I want to leave a good legacy to the Ateneo crowd, Ateneo community, and my fans who have been there with their never-ending support. It’s just right for me to give something back. Kailangan talagang bigyan ko sila ng good game everytime.”
Does Ateneo have what it takes to regain the five-peat glory days? It remains to be seen, but for Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, they’ll be doing all they can for another taste of the championship before their time in the UAAP is over.
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