As Gilas Pilipinas practice ended on Wednesday morning at the Meralco Gym, Kiefer Ravena stayed on the court to put up more shots.
It was just the second day of practice for the SEA Games-bound team, and third day overall together, having played an exhibition match against the Ateneo Blue Eagles the day before.
Fellow Gilas players Von Pessumal and Almond Vostoros also polished their jump shots alongside Ravena, while Raymar Jose was on the other end working on his game.
This Gilas young squad will be closely monitored come the Southeast Asian Games as it marks the first time the national basketball program sent out two teams in separate tournaments. Pride and bragging rights will also be up for grabs as the Philippines still hopes to maintain its dominance in the region.
And at the forefront of this young Gilas team is Ravena who is gunning for a historic fourth straight SEA Games gold medal.
“Blessing siya sakin na hindi lahat ng tao nakakaabot ng apat na SEA Games eh,” Ravena humbly said. “Fortunate ako na maaga ako nag-start and nagkaroon ako ng chance na tuloy-tuloy sa SEA Games.”
Ravena first competed as a 17-year-old teenager back in 2011 and since then has become a fixture in the regional games. In all his previous national commitments, he has brought gold winning in 2011, 2013, and most recently in 2015. When he wins for the fourth time in Malaysia, he will become the only basketball player to accomplish such a feat.
“Talagang goal namin is to play together, play to win of course, gold medal [sana] makuha namin,” the former two-time UAAP MVP said. “It only counts as one. Bonus na lang yung naka apat na ako.”
Even though there is already a lot of hype surrounding Ravena and his quest for SEA Games immortality, he is also gives a broad perspective of what this current version of Gilas Pilipinas means.
“[What] makes it special is this is the first na talagang magkakasama kami as a Team B,” Ravena said about his upcoming fourth appearance. “Na nagkaroon ng dalawang national team because of the FIBA Asia Cup so this can be a stepping stone into having a program with two teams in order to develop an even better team in the future,” he went on.
The creation of at least two national teams has become a necessity with the change in the FIBA calendar. As there will be more qualifying games, a bigger training pool is required. The perfect example of this stipulation is the current predicament of the FIBA Asia Cup coinciding with the SEA Games.
Ravena will lead a young and talented group against the region’s best while their “kuyas” are competing in Lebanon. The point guard also shared that this 2017 team is especially different because he is going to compete with his batchmates.
“Ito na yung mga ka-age ko eh. Ito talaga yung kasabay ko,” he pointed out. In the Gilas pool, he is with players who he has faced many battles in the amateur ranks. He is well-aware of the style of play brought by guys like Almond Vosotros, Troy Rosario, Mike Tolomia, Raymar Jose, and Ray Parks. Throughout his numerous international commitments, he has also been teammates with most of them.
Ravena also shared that aside from the fact that he is accustomed with his Gilas teammates, there is also a sense of familiarity in terms of his competition. He noted that neighboring nations like Singapore and Indonesia essentially have the same team that they send in every competition.
“Good yun for the other neighboring countries,” he said about the lack of significant changes in other national teams. “Kasi since 2011 sila na yung nakalaban namin. Ibig sabihin nag develop lang sila as one team. Sila pa rin yun.”
As Kiefer Ravena aims for personally glory, he also recognizes the significance of his team when it embarks on their SEA Games journey. Having four gold medals would be historic, true, but he also said that it would be just a bonus. And even though it will be his fourth time in the tournament, it’s also his first time to be part of a big national pool with two teams competing in separate countries. That alone is pretty historic.
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