KIEFER Ravena found himself in an unfamiliar role as cheerleader for Gilas Pilipinas during its two tune-up games against Iran last Tuesday and Wednesday.
A perennial starter who logged heavy minutes wherever he played, the amateur superstar was reduced into a benchwarmer as he never played a single minute in the pair of friendlies against the Iranians.
But Ravena, whose benching was a sign that he would eventually miss the cut for the 14-man lineup, insisted there were no frustrations as he cherished the learning experience, cheering the nationals on.
“Wala naman (frustration),” the Gilas cadet star said. “Nagkukulitan lang nga kami sa bench eh. At kailangan ma-appreciate mo yung mga ganung bagay eh, kasi may mga butas sa team na hindi lahat naco-cover and yung mga tao dun sa bench, nakikita nila yun.”
“Ganun talaga para covered lahat, may kailangan gumawa nun,” he added.
And what did he see the Filipino dribblers need to improve on?
“Kulang na lang sa laro,” Ravena said. “Two tune-up games against the same team, you can’t really say a lot, especially the first one being a controlled one. Kailangan lang talaga jelling, kapaan lang sa loob ng court. Hindi naman mahirap gawin yun pag nakapag-Europe na.”
Despite riding the bench alongside naturalized player reserve Mo Tautuaa, Ravena was proud of how they helped the national team in their own way.
“Hindi man kami naglaro ni Mo, at least, alam namin sa loob namin na we’ve done our jobs,” the former Ateneo star said. “We’ve done our service, yung ganun lang na pag-motivate sa team, okay na yun.”
Missing the cut was also a positive reality check that there’s still plenty to work on his game, Ravena added.
“Sobrang gandang experience kasi it’s a gauge kung nasan ka,” Ravena said. “I wasn’t really able to play to see where I am, practices lang. Pero makikita mo na there’s a lot of improvement waiting to happen.”
That’s why he plans to return to the US for another round of individual training sessions.
“I’m going back to the States, spend time there, and look for more opportunities over there,” he said.