MANILA, Philippines – Kiefer Ravena will have a crack at winning another gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games as he is set to replace veteran guard Jayson Castro in Gilas Pilipinas' 15-man pool.
National team coach Tim Cone and his staff handpicked Ravena to fill the void left by Castro, who is expected to miss the regional showpiece that the country will host after suffering a calf injury.
Barring any major developments, Ravena will officially be part of the pool as his inclusion got the green light from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
"We considered some other players but we really just kept coming back to Kiefer, Kiefer, Kiefer, Kiefer. We asked him and he said yes, so we're happy to have him," Cone said on Monday, November 4.
Although the 26-year-old Ravena is the youngest in the bunch, Cone said their decision to add him was based on his ability to command the respect of his significantly battle-tested teammates.
"We're going to lose the experience of Jayson but Kiefer got that rare maturity that kind of lends himself to be able to play with a bunch of vets and still be a leader and still do the things that he needs to do," Cone said.
"I think he's kind of rare that way."
A back issue, though, forced Ravena out from playing in Gilas Pilipinas' 98-95 win over Alab Pilipinas in their tuneup game on Monday.
But Cone believes it will only take a matter of time for Ravena to adjust to Gilas Pilipinas' system even with the SEA Games kicking off in less than a month on November 30.
"I could've played him if he could've played because I think he's a natural. He would've picked up things and played an actual type game that we would want to see," Cone said of Ravena.
"And Yeng Guiao's offense is very unique, but it's got some of the elements that we're doing. I don't think it'll be a stretch for Kiefer to run our offense. It'll take him a short time to run our offense."
For his part, Ravena – who is seeking a fifth straight SEA Games gold medal – was just grateful for his selection and for the opportunity to learn from Cone.
"[W]ith coach Tim, it's a learning opportunity for me and I'm very thankful for that, for the management in considering me to be part of the team or the pool," he said.
Ravena will join the national team in practice on Thursday, November 7, as Gilas Pilipinas gears up for another friendly match against Alab Pilipinas next Monday, November 11. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.