KIEFER Ravena is ready to represent the country anew.
Banned for 18 months, the 6-foot guard will finally get his chance to train anew with Gilas Pilipinas with him finally being cleared for practice on Monday.
"I'm very excited. Kung iisipin mo, 500 na araw ko itong hinintay to play the sport you love. I've been working out by myself pero iba pa rin na kasama mo ang teammates and coaches and I'll be able to play with the team," he said.
Ravena has been allowed to practice with the national team and his mother ballclub NLEX on Monday -- a full two months away from the expiration of his Fiba-imposed suspension. He will be cleared to play by August 24.
He'll take that from nothing, as the 25-year-old playmaker will definitely be a big boost on Gilas Pilipinas' backcourt and his arrival couldn't be anymore timely after longtime national team staple Jayson Castro withdrew from the pool.
"News has been going around na walang masyado nagpa-practice sa team. Kilala niyo naman ako na kung pwede na talaga, di ako magda-dalawang isip na maglaro para sa country," he said.
Coach Yeng Guiao has repeatedly floated Ravena's names as the newest inclusions to the pool, though the outspoken mentor have stated worries on the conditioning of the two-time UAAP MVP.
Ravena, however, believes that he's better than ever with the shape he's currently in — one which is ready to don the national tri-colors anew with the biggest goal suiting up for the World Cup in China come August.
"I think I'll surprise a lot of people with my game shape and my conditioning right now," he said. "Honestly, last time I felt this was in third year college. I've lost a lot of weight, 22 pounds to be exact, and playing-wise, I think maraming magugulat kasi gusto ko talaga magulat ang mga ibang tao na hindi naniniwala na makakabalik ako sa dati."
"Totoo na mahirap din mawala ng isa't kalahating taon and it's really a mental game kung paano mo i-push ang sarili mo to work out and stay in tip-top shape. But ito yung pinakamalaking chance ko makabawi, hindi lang sa mga tao at sa mga taong sumusuporta sa akin, pati din sa national team dahil Pilipinas ang nadamay sa sitwasyon na nangyari sa akin."
Ravena says that he's worked so hard to get to this point, and if given the chance to be part of Gilas Pilipinas again for the international basketball showpiece, he won't let this opportunity go.
"If I have a chance to get included, this will be my first World Cup and this journey has been important to my career. I've learned a lot from this experience and yun lang iniisip ko," he said. "I want to give back para doon sa mga players na nag-sakripisyo na naglaro sa qualifiers at tumuloy ng journey na yun."