Generations of players merged during Monday night’s first Gilas Pilipinas practice of the year.
There were young, up and coming amateur stars, meeting and playing alongside their heroes and idols. Some were friends, teammates, schoolmates, while others were simply strangers to one another before wearing the same Gilas jerseys. The excitement in the atmosphere inside the Meralco Gym was palpable.
Amidst the largest Gilas pool ever assembled, there were also brothers.
Kiefer Ravena, the PBA rookie sensation who already has a number of international basketball experience under his belt, was in Gilas practice alongside his younger brother Thirdy. The younger Ravena is part of the “23 for 2023” pool selected by head coach Chot Reyes.
“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,” Thirdy humbly said.
He added, “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.”
Seeing the two brothers together on the same court and wearing the same shade of jersey was a scene of nostalgia and redemption.
The last time the two Ravenas were on the same team was in UAAP Season 77, four years ago, when they both played for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. By then, Kiefer was already a two-time UAAP champion. He was the Phenom, a collegiate star with a bright future ahead of him. Thirdy, on the other hand, was a rookie. He was fresh off his UAAP Juniors career where he graduated as the league MVP. At the time, there was a lot of hype and excitement of the idea that there were two Ravenas for the Blue Eagles.
But as fate would have it, things didn’t go as planned. Thirdy was seldom used in his rookie year. He struggled for minutes and had a difficult time adjusting in the collegiate ranks. To make matters worse, he was deemed ineligible by the school due to academic reasons the year after. In Season 78, Thirdy was supposed to be in his second playing year while Kiefer was going through his last year in the UAAP. The Thirdy-Kiefer combination for Ateneo only lasted one year and ended in disappointment.
“Him being part of the 23 for 23 is something he really worked for the last couple of years. From playing in his rookie year, playing less – not the usual minutes, and then not playing at all. And then picking up where he was supposed to be in his sophomore year and then Finals MVP this past UAAP season,” Kiefer proudly said on the selection of his brother.
In 2015, the paths of the two brothers separated. Kiefer tried his luck in the United States after graduating from Ateneo. He gallantly pursued a childhood dream, which was a bold decision but something he needed to do. Afterwards, he also had brief stints with club teams like Mighty Sports and Alab Pilipinas, all while still playing for Gilas whenever his name was called. He even won his fourth SEA Games gold medal even before getting drafted in the PBA.
While his older brother traveled all around the world to hone his craft, Thirdy started to rebuild his life. He worked on his academics during his one-year hiatus from the team. And when he finally got back, he redefined his game. From a scoring machine in his high school days, he morphed into an all-around, do-it-all forward. He became a two-way threat, someone who can create on offense and at the same time be a lockdown defender. In the past two UAAP seasons since his return, he was named part of the Mythical Five.
Four years later, both found themselves together on the basketball court Monday night, both now part of the coveted Gilas program. Their different paths finally converged. Even though one is in the PBA while the other still in college, they are together again, practicing and playing for the same side.
“It just goes to show if you work hard, you’ll reap things, na hindi ka pababayaan ni Lord dyan kasi alam niya naman pinaghihirapan mo,” Kiefer said on how everything fell into place, especially for his brother.
“At least ngayon nabigyan kami ng chance makalaro with each other. Kasi sa Ateneo na miss ko last chance so ngayon parang bonus sa ‘kin na may isa pa akong teammate at saka kapatid ko pa,” Thirdy opened up. “So parang natuturuan niya pa ako more than ng pina-practice namin at saka nabibigyan pa niya ako ng tips while practicing. Blessing din nga na naging part kami ng pool, parehas kami.”
Even though they’ll be practicing together in the coming weeks, Kiefer admits that it will take some time getting used to seeing Thirdy inside the Meralco Gym.
“Just being in the pool…just being in the same vicinity with Thirdy, it’s really kind of still new to me,” Kiefer shared. “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.”
When 2023 comes along, Kiefer will be well into his prime as a PBA player while Thirdy would have graduated and started his professional career as well. There is a high chance that the two will be selected for the final roster for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“In the long run, whether sa 2023 pa sila makakalaro, dun pa ako makakasali, dun ko siya magiging teammate, it’s fine,” Kiefer said. “I’m sure it’s gonna be worth the wait for me and my parents.”
The Ravena brothers were one-time teammates four years ago. Now, they’re on the same team but with a much higher purpose and with bigger stakes. As generations crossed paths in Gilas’ first practice, it seemed only fitting that two brothers now have a chance to play alongside each other again.